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More people in prison, fewer on probation
Autumn 2023 Offender Management Statistics show the inexorable rise in the prison population and continued fall in probation caseload.

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Offender Management Statistics

Yesterday’s (26 October 2023) edition of the MoJ Offender Management Statistics cover the prison population up to the end of September and other prison and probation data until the end of June. They confirm the inexorable rise of the prison population and the fall in the probation caseload.  Prison adjudications and licence recalls both jumped markedly. You can see the main points in the infographic below.

The prison population

Over the year to September, the prison population has risen by around 6,300 (an 8% increase) to 87,576. The population at 30 September 2023 was around 4,600 higher than pre-pandemic levels (for comparison, the 31 March 2020 prison population was 82,990).

The big rise in the remand population has continued (a 12% increase between 30 September 2022 and 30 September 2023); the ‘untried’ population increased by 8% and the ‘convicted unsentenced’ population increased by 18%. 

The remand prison population on 30 September 2023 was 16,196, the highest on record.

The recall prison population was 12,031 on 30 September 2023 (15% higher than 30 September 2022, and also a ‘record high’). The increasing recall population is likely driven by a combination of factors such as a longer-term increase in the average length of determinate sentences and an increase in the number of people serving indeterminate sentences or sentences with an extended licence.

The number of prisoner first receptions from April to June 2023 was around 17,400 (9% higher than the equivalent period in 2022). This represents a similar level of between 17,000 and 18,000 per quarter seen pre-pandemic.

Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) continues to ‘bounce back’ following the large drop during the COVID-19 period. There were around 100,000 ROTL incidences between April and June 2023 – a 6% increase compared to the same quarter in 2022, but still down on the pre-COVID levels of around 110,000 per quarter.

Big rise in punishments in prison

There was a 28% increase in the number of proven adjudications (to 32,855) from the same quarter in 2022. This in turn resulted in a 31% rise in the number of punishments (to 57,977).

A third (32%) of proven adjudications were for offences of ‘disobedience and disrespect’, with the next largest category being ‘unauthorised transactions’ (30%).

Additional days were awarded as punishment on 1,000 occasions between April and June 2023; this is a 56% rise compared with the same period in 2022. A total of 15,474 days were awarded in the latest quarter – this is a 55% rise compared with the same quarter in 2022 (10,006 days between April and June 2022).

Probation caseload

On 30 June 2023, there were 238,264 offenders supervised by the Probation Service in England and Wales (see the infographic I have reproduced below), representing a 2% decrease compared to 30 June 2022 and a 0.5% decrease compared to 31 March 2023.

Between the end of June 2022 and the end of June 2023, court order caseload decreased by 5% from 115,456 to 109,133, with the number of offenders on a community order (CO) decreasing by 7% and those on a suspended sentence order (SSO) with requirements decreasing by 3%.

The total caseload of offenders supervised before or after release from prison at the end of June 2023 was 133,486, representing an increase of 1% compared to the end of June 2022.

Under COs, there were increases across most requirement types compared to the same quarter in 2022. The most notable increases under COs were electronic monitoring (by 228% to 844), mental health requirements (by 60% to 509), and alcohol abstinence and monitoring (by 14% to 777). However, curfew requirements decreased by 98% to 23.

Under SSOs, around half of the requirement types increased. The most notable increases were also in electronic monitoring (by 236% to 565), mental health requirements (by 43% to 258), alcohol abstinence and monitoring (by 13% to 414), and drug treatment requirements (also by 13% to 659). However, curfew requirements decreased by 97% to 21.

The number of Pre-Sentence Reports fell by 4% in the last quarter.

The chart below shows the numbers of people starting probation supervision for every quarter over the last three years.

Conclusion

In my view, the principal conclusion from this set of statistics is pretty straightforward. While the prison population has surged by 6,300 (a rise of 8%) in the last year, while the number of people starting a community sentence fell by 803 (3.4%). No wonder we have a prison capacity crisis.

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