United Kingdom: England & Wales
Capital city — London
Incarceration rate (per 100,000 inhabit…
Type of government
Human Development Index
Homicide rate (per 100,000 inhabitants)i
Name of authority in charge of the pris…
Total number of prisonersi
Average length of imprisonment (in mont…i2018/ Ministry of Justice, "Criminal Justice Statistics quarterly, England an Wales, July 2017 to June 2018 (provisional)", p. 01.
Total number of prison facilitiesi12/2018
An NPM has been established
Number and percentage of female prisone…i
Death penalty is abolished
Variation in the capacity of the prison facilities
a decrease of 1.2 %
The total capacity of the prison system, as of 31 December 2017, is 75,545.
A catefory C ‘mega-prison’ at Full Sutton, with a capacity of 1 440, is in the final phase of construction. The future prison has been highly criticised by the local population. The opponents believe that the construction is incompatible with the local sewer system and is creating excessive visual and sound pollution. Residents are worried about the repercussions on the reputation of their town as well as their safety1.
York Press, Mega-prison at Full Sutton is set for final go ahead, November 2021. ↩
The expansion project for the Ford Men’s Prison, submitted by the Ministry of Justice, was approved. Two additional wings would provide space for 120 inmates and 80 parking spaces. An existing prison building would be demolished to allow for the construction.
Continuity of care is ensured during incarceration. All 118 prisons use the same SystmOne software1. Professionals are required to “maintain, through the hospital information system, an adequate and complete medical record for each prisoner. If necessary, health professionals may share information with services outside the institution: rehabilitation services, community service, probation services, social services…” 2
The Guardian, Prisons linked to single health record IT, April 2011. ↩
National Health Service, Standard Annex to Health and Justice Service Specifications: Adult Prison Estate, March 2018, p. 7. ↩
A report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, released in May 2022, investigated the circumstances surrounding the death of an inmate who died of cardiac arrest at age 54 in Leeds prison. He was found in his cell on 25 September 2021. The inmate had high blood pressure, heart problems and was taking medication for high cholesterol. He also had a history of paranoid schizophrenia. According to health care staff, the inmate refused to take his medication on 13 occasions against medical advice and there was no formal action taken to address his mental health. The study pointed out that a Do Not Attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (DNACPR) order was enacted while Mr. Alexis was in hospital in June 2021, which Mr. Alexis stated that he did not request upon his return to prison. The report stated that the DNACPR was not reviewed for ten days. At the time that Mr. Alexis went into cardiac arrest, a staff member waited one to two minutes for her colleagues to arrive before entering the inmate’s cell out of fear of his aggressive behavior, which was found to be an acceptable decision. The Ombudsman’s office deplored the poor treatment of the deceased during his incarceration. It recommended that a personalised care plan to address his heart disease and a mental capacity assessment should have taken place. The report concluded that the inmate did not receive care equivalent to that provided outside of prison.
Variation in the number of prisoners
decreased by 2.56%
compared to the previous year
The Ministry of Justice estimated that the prison population would increase to 98 500 in 2026, an increase of about 22.5 percent. The increase could be explained by the use of longer sentences, the creation of 20 000 additional detention places and the recruitment of 20 000 police officers.
The prison population had increased over the previous 30 years by 70%. England and Wales had the second highest incarceration rate in Western Europe. The use of short prison sentences for non-violent crimes was common, despite analyses that pointed to their ineffectiveness in reducing recidivism.
Visitors may bring authorised objects or goods. The PSI 16/2011 defines the list. Objects that are “indecent or obscene, constituting a threat to the security of the prison or are written in coded language” are prohibited.
The visitor is prohibited from releasing anything written by a prisoner intended for publication and from being paid for it.1
In the visiting area, facilities display useful information and a list of the main prohibited objects in several languages and with images.2
Department of Justice, Staying in touch with someone in prison. ↩
Department of Justice, PSI 16/2011 on Visits and Visitor Services. ↩
Prisons Minister, Victoria Atkins, confirmed in the House of Commons on 25 May that “families and friends [could] send books to their imprisoned loved ones - either directly or via approved providers”. The announcement followed the banning of books not sent via approved providers by at least two prisons, in contravention of a rule introduced in 2015 permitting inmates to receive books by hand or by post from any sender. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, families were no longer allowed to hand books directly to their detained loved ones due to the risk of contamination, but were still entitled to post books. Victoria Atkins said that the prisons which acted in contravention of the rule had been reminded of it and their actions addressed.
Vocational training is provided
Prison administrations provide professional training and support for teachers.1 The training courses usually offered include plumbing, hairdressing, masonry, bicycle mechanics…
Chief Inspector of Prisons, “Annual Report 2017-18”, July 2018, p. 42 . ↩
Dominic Raab, Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, confirmed plans to expand The Clink Kitchens restaurant chain. The program would train inmates in hospitality and restaurant jobs. Six additional locations opened after 26 September 2021. The government confirmed that this number would reach 50 by 2023. Dominic Raab emphasised the importance of this type of program for the professional reintegration of prisoners.
Prisoners are allowed to exchange mail
yes, under conditions
Correspondence with any person or body may, at the discretion of the prison governor, be prohibited (under Prison Rule 34). Such a prohibition is possible if there is “reason to believe that the person or body concerned is planning or carrying out activities posing a genuine threat to the safety or good order of the facility or other facilities”.1
The number of letters allowed depends on the type :
- statutory letter: the weekly number of these letters is fixed and they cannot be banned as a punishment. The mailing costs are paid by the State.
- priviledged letter: confidential correspondence between a prisoner and his lawyer, a magistrate or any other authorised person or body.
- special letter: additional letters that are allowed to be sent in a number of circumstances
The number of letters also depends on the status of the prisoner, whether convicted or not. Refer to the PSI49/2011 for further details.
Department of Justice, PSI 49/on the communications from prisoners, p. 8. ↩
The Mount, a category C men’s prison in Hertfordshire, had reportedly implemented a policy requiring families and friends of inmates to send cards and photographs via online providers approved by the administration. The decision was to take effect on 20 June and was reportedly introduced due to the prison having received a number of cards soaked in “Spice” (also known as the “zombie drug”). Prison Governor Paul Crossey published a letter on the institution’s official Twitter account informing families of instructions for sending their letters. He justified the measure by stating that there is a growing concern about “the threat presented by psychoactive substances.” The families denounced the cruel practice and called on the Mount prison to reconsider its decision. The Governor’s tweet was then removed and handwritten letters and cards would be photocopied and given to prisoners, the Ministry of Justice says.
Education is available for all prisoners
The training offered usually includes courses in mathematics, reading, English, business and arts education.
The House of Commons Education Select Committee released a report that emphasised the importance of education in prison. The report lamented the reduction in educational participation rates, a 90% drop between 2010/11 and 2017/18. The report called the system “clunky, chaotic and disjointed” and said it did not value education as a key to rehabilitation. Among its recommendations, the Committee called for the use of laptops for inmates pursuing education. The goal of this measure was to find a solution to the digital divide between the general and prison populations, impacting inmates’ ability to rehabilitate. The report also pointed out that over 30% of inmates had learning disabilities. Only 25 qualified Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators(SENCo) were available to serve all public prisons, amounting to 1 educator for every 4 facilities. The Committee recommended the adoption of digital educational passports that would allow access to inmate records to better understand their needs thus allowing educators to tailor the educational strategy to the individual.
All prisoners are entitled to spend at least one hour a day in the open air
The amount of time spent outdoors varies from one facility to another. It is often about 30 minutes, despite the rule being one hour (Prison Rule 30). The administration uses weather conditions and the need for order and discipline to limit time spent outdoors.1
The Inspectorate of Prisons observed this limited period and deplored the fact that inmates have to choose between this exercise and other necessities (shower, phone call, etc.). They noted that many outside excercise areas remained austere, dirty and uninviting.2
Prison Reform Trust Regime and time out of cellule. ↩
Chief Inspector of Prisons, “Annual Report 2017-18”, July 2018, p. 39. ↩
Inmates at Strangeways Category A men’s prison in Manchester were confined to their cells from 6-10 June. They told their families that they were not permitted to leave their cells, play sports or bathe. Food was left at their door. Visits were suspended. However, they were able to contact relatives by means of a telephone in the cell. Some inmates reported that the confinement lasted more than four days and that many cells were searched. The prison administration justified the lock-down as a result of work in the prison. The Ministry of Justice later claimed that the prison was closed due to an operation to dismantle a smuggling ring.
The prison service offers activities to prisoners
All prisoners are assessed for their skills development needs upon arrival. These are recorded in an “Individual Learning Plan” (ILP)“. This plan is available to the prison service and external providers. Access to employment, training and skills development is subject to the prison service’s proposals, the providers’ offer and the prison regime.
The activities usually offered are as follows:
- vocational training and skills development
- sport activities
- cultural and artistic activities
- rehabilitation programmes
Department of Justice, PSI 03/2012 on activities assignment. ↩
The Inspectorate of Prisons considered access to education and work at Forest Bank prison to be “inadequate”. It noted a lack of purposeful activity for inmates. Charlie Taylor, head of the HM Inspectorate of Prisons, however, saw progress and acknowledged the difficulties faced by the facility during the COVID-19 pandemic. He defined the facility as “a prison in transition” and hailed their actions as “encouraging”. The Inspectorate’s conclusions followed a surprise inspection in February 2022.
HM Inspectorate of Prisons believed that the recovery of prisons from the COVID-19 pandemic had been long and uneven. The pandemic resulted in a sharp reduction in outside contact, activities, and training, and the resumption of these services had been slow for the majority of prisons. Their suspension had a substantial impact on the well-being, mental health and rehabilitation of prisoners. Charlie Taylor, HM chief inspector of prisons, stated that there would be a “price to pay” for the boredom, lack of activity and disruption of family ties caused by the pandemic.
Variation in the number of untried prisoners
The number of remand prisoners goes from 9,145, in January 2020, to 12,780 in December 2021. This is an increase of 39 %.
The number of inmates awaiting trial was at its highest since 2010. These inmates accounted for 16% of the total prison population.
Childbirth takes place in
external care facilities
A 31-year-old female inmate gave birth in June 2020 to a stillborn child in the bathroom at Styal Prison, Cheshire. She alerted a supervisor of “excruciating” stomach cramps. The nurse on duty did not respond to the supervisor’s three calls. She considered it to be painful menstruation and did not suspect pregnancy when it was denied by the inmate. The young woman gave birth, assisted by staff. This example was included in a report on the neglect of pregnant women in prison. The report recommended better training for staff in pregnancy detection and support and pregnancy tests at various stages of incarceration.
Prison facilities are subjected to other external review mechanisms. Every facility in England and Wales is monitored by an Independent Monitoring Board (IMB). Their members, drawn from civil society, are independent volunteers. They participate in at least three or four visits a month. They are selected by the Secretary of State. They can enter the institution in question without restriction, at any time. They can speak privately with prisoners of their choice. They regularly share their observations with management teams. They may also share their observations during regional meetings and in front of their National Assembly. The supervisory boards produce an annual report for the Minister.
Facilities are also under the supervision of authorised persons. Their visits do not require any special request from the prisoner and are not counted against the visits to which they are entitled. These persons are listed below:
- English or Welsh MPs
- Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
- Representatives from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, EHRC, or from any other organisation, where the goal of their visit is to highlight, specifically and exclusively, any problems associated with equality.
Meetings are confidential.[^PSI 16/2011]
[^PSI 16/2011]: Ministry of Justice, PSI publication 16/2011 on visits and visitor services.
A report by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) noted an improvement in the condition of Hewell Prison. It was said to be “cleaner” and “more comfortable”. The IMB had called the facility “unfit for the 21st century” and had denounced the inhumane treatment of prisoners with disabilities as well as those with “indeterminate sentences”.
Variation in the number of incarcerated minors
a decrease of 3 %
There were 866 minors incarcerated as of 31 December 2017.
The number of incarcerated minors declined after 2010 by more than 75%. Approximately one-third would be in pre-trial detention.
Life sentences are banned
The Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP governed by the Criminal Justice Act 2003) allowed indefinite imprisonment if the court deemed the convicted prisoner to be a continued threat to society. Its abolition in 2012 has not been implemented retrospectively. As of September 2018, 2,598 people were still sentenced to an IPP. This was 20% less than previous years. Experts Dirk van Zyl Smit and Catherine Appleton consider an IPP to be an unofficial life sentence. 1
IPP sentences have been replaced by an extended sentence of up to eight years. The court issues these to prisoners over the age of 18 who represent “a significant danger to the public”.
Prison Reform Trust, Bromley Briefings Prison Fact file, 2018, p. 9. ↩
Indefinite prison sentences (imprisonment for public protection and life sentences) affected 16% of the prison population. This was an increase of 9% from 1993.
Variation in the number of deaths in custody
an increase of 10%
compared to the previous year
The mortality rate for prisoners had been increasing since 2011, after a partial decrease in 2021. This increase primarily affected males.
The staff in charge of newcomers receive two types of training:
- Assessment, Care in Custody & Teamwork (ACCT): procedure for identifying and monitoring an at-risk prisoner (suicide risk…). It concerns all officers in contact with prisoners. The Howard League reported, in a study published in 2017, that several officers “believe the ACCT training inadequate”. It voices concerns about its capacity to evaluate the vulnerability of a prisoner.1
- Cell Sharing Risk Assessment (CSRA): see above. All officers and teams involved in the entry process are required to follow it.2
Howard League for Penal Reform, Preventing prison suicide: Staff perspectives, 2017. ↩
Ministry of Justice, PSI publication 20/2015 on the Cell Sharing Risk Assessment process, p. 7. ↩
The number of cases of self-harm and inter-prisoner violence at Foston Hall women’s prison was considered “worrying”. The Inspectorate of Prisons’ report stated that the treatment of vulnerable prisoners was inadequate. The findings were based on a visit in late 2021. They were accompanied by recommendations extended to five other women’s prisons in England.
The men, women and children imprisoned in England and Wales are incarcerated in different units.
There are four main prison categories for men:
- Trainer prisons: these house category B and C prisoners (the majority of prisoners). These prisons provide facilitated access to professional training and activities. There are 43 category C trainer prisons and 8 that are category B. The category C trainer prisons are at times resettlement prisons. These pool prisoners condemned to sentences of between one and four years. Prisoners are accompanied, during the final three months, by a member of staff in charge of preparations for leaving prison (resettlement providers).
- Local prisons: these house remand prisoners, people sentenced to short jail terms, and those waiting to be transferred to a different facility. There are 29 local prisons.
- Open institutions: these house category D prisoners (low risk). Some prisoners are at the end of their sentence. They have carried out the majority of their sentences in the highest security prisons. There are ten of these open institutions.
- The eight high security prisons are split into two categories:
- Core locals hold the same categories of prisoners as those in local prisons, under a stricter security regime.
- Dispersals hold category A prisoners (high risk). Their aim is to spread the prisoners considered most dangerous throughout the entire territory.
There are 12 facilities for women in England and Wales. Two of them, Askham Grange and East Sutton Park, are open institutions.
Minors and young adults are gathered in three types of prisons:
- Young Offender Institutions, YOI
- Secure Training Centres, STC
- Secure Children’s Homes, SCH.1
Please refer to the Minors section for more information.
House of Commons Library,“Briefing paper : The prison estate“, December 2018. ↩
The new Five Wells Prison opened its doors. It had approximately 1700 places for Category C inmates (see Overview, Organisation section). The facility was designed with ultra-secure windows without bars and with so-called “smart” technology. Inmates would have access to tablets to support their learning. The cells were called “rooms” and the inmates, “residents”. The facility was in partnership with local employers to promote the professional integration of people leaving prison. Two special wings were dedicated to people living with substance dependence. The British Deputy Prime Minister, Dominic Raab, said that the main aim of Five Wells was “to reduce re-offending and make our streets safer”.
Number of deaths in custody
Eight inmates of Littlehey Prison had died of COVID-19 as of 1st January. This made it the prison most affected by the pandemic. It was closely followed by Wakefield and Whatton prisons. All three of these prisons had a significant proportion of elderly inmates. Prisons in England and Wales recorded 177 deaths among inmates from the beginning of the year.