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The growing problem of prison recalls
Prison van bringing prisoners from court
Russell digs into the data to shed more light on the prison recall problem.

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Why are so many people recalled to prison?

As regular readers know well, the proportion of people in prison because they have been recalled has been steadily rising over recent years. The most recent (27 July, 2023) MoJ Offender Management Statistics revealed that the number of people recalled to prison jumped 23% to 6,824 in just the first quarter of this year compared to 2022. Even though the prison population has increased, the proportion who are inside because they have been recalled has increased by 20%. The statisticians attribute the increasing recall population to a combination of factors such as the 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. 

In this blog, I dig further into the statistics, looking at the supplementary tables published alongside the Offender Management Stats.


The number of people recalled to prison has risen dramatically following changes introduced by the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014 (implemented the following year), which mandated post-custody supervision for all people serving sentences of more than one day. This meant that the majority of people serving prison sentences who were sentenced to less than 12 months were now subject to statutory supervision and therefore at risk of recall.

The fact that people are imprisoned for longer sentences has also had an impact – the longer a person is on licence, the more chance that they will breach a licence condition. My chart below shows the different types of sentence – or HDC – from which people are recalled.

Why are people recalled?

The most interesting table (5.10) provides the reasons why people are recalled to prison. People may be recalled for more than one reason, which is why the figures in my second chart below add up 11,805 rather than 6,824. By far the most common reason for recall is non-compliance (in 37.1% cases) with the supervising offender manager, followed by failure to keep in touch with the supervisor (16.7%), facing a further charge (15.4%) and failing to reside where directed (13.7%).  

Interestingly, women are more likely to be recalled for failure to keep in touch (23.3% vs 16.1% for men) but much less likely because they face a further charge (8.5% vs 16%).


One final piece of information from the statistics relates to people recalled and re-released from indeterminate sentences. Over the most recent 12 month period (ending in March 2023), 409 IPPs were re-released having spent an average further 26 months in prison on recall. Similarly,  190 life sentence prisoners were re-released having spent an average of 30 months back in prison on recall.


Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the header image in this post. You can see Andy’s work here

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One Response

  1. Having been recalled to prison for 18 months for what was a minor breach of my licence, something I did for honourable reasons, I found your blog on this issue very interesting. In my view, the probation officers are making decisions that are purely punitive and wholly disproportionate to the committed breach. Moreover, they are doing so without any safeguards or a any accountability to any independent process. This situation is resulting in record numbers of recalled ex offenders and abuses of power.

    Thank you for all your work.

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