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Quarterly: July to September 2021
Prison population: 31 December 2021
|79,092 prisoners in England and Wales as at 31 December 2021||This represents a rise of 1% compared to the same period in the previous year.|
|15,103 first receptions into prison between July and September 2021||This is 1% lower than the same period in 2020.|
|11,750 releases from sentences between July and September 2021||This is 6% lower than the same period in 2020. As the prison population shifts towards those serving longer sentences, we would expect fewer releases in each period.|
|36,482 adjudication outcomes between July and September 2021||This is a rise of 2% compared to the same period in 2020. Additional days were awarded as punishment on 557 occasions.|
|5,699 licence recalls between July and September 2021||This is a 7% decrease on the same quarter in 2020.|
|234,827 offenders on probation at the end of September 2021||This number increased by 5% compared to the number of offenders supervised as at 30 September 2020.|
This publication provides offender management quarterly statistics for the latest date available and provides comparisons to the previous year.
For technical detail please refer to the accompanying guide, ‘Guide to offender management statistics’
In this publication we are reporting on the prison population as at 31 December 2021, with comparisons to the same point in 2020. Over this 12-month period, the total prison population has risen slightly (1% increase) to 79,092.
The increasing remand population trend that we have seen since early 2020 has continued (a 6% increase between 31 Dec 2020 and 31 Dec 2021). This increase over the past 12 months is much more pronounced in the ‘convicted unsentenced’ remand population (which rose by 16%, compared to a 1% rise in the ‘untried’ population). This likely reflects the impact of partial court recovery following COVID-19 restrictions, resulting in an increase in the number of convicted prisoners awaiting sentence.
Between December 2020 and 2021, there was virtually no change (less than 1% increase) in the sentenced prison population. This contrasts with notable decreases we have seen over recent quarters (there was a 10% decrease from March 2020 to March 2021, a 4% decrease from June 2020 to June 2021, and a 2% decrease from September 2020 to September 2021). As with the remand population mentioned above, this reflects that the normal flow of individuals from the remand to the sentenced population (after sentencing at court) is continuing to recover following COVID-19 restrictions.
On the topic of COVID-19 recovery, the prison population has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels; the 31 Dec 2021 prison population is still around 4,000 below the levels of 31 Dec 2019 and 31 Mar 2020.
The prisoner flows data in this publication cover the period July to September 2021, which means that for the second time we are comparing prisoner flows data between two ‘COVID-19 periods’ (the comparison period being July to September 2020). Though the spring 2020 COVID-19 lockdown dramatically affected the normal Criminal Justice System processes, by the summer many of the restrictions had been relaxed.
As such, during the July to September 2020 quarter, the number of prisoner first receptions recovered to around 15,200 (compared to around 12,600 in the previous quarter). Over the most recent four quarterly periods (covering the period from October 2020 to September 2021) the number of prisoner first receptions has remained at a similar level of around 15,000 each quarter – though this is lower than the level of around 17,000 per quarter seen pre-pandemic.
As COVID restrictions on normal prison regime are relaxed we will see very large percentage changes in certain areas. For example, there were around 75,000 incidences of Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) between July and September 2021 – this is a 162% increase (around two and a half times the level) compared to the same quarter in 2020. This reflects a partial return to pre-COVID levels (of around 110,000 per quarter).
Large percentage changes can also be seen in a number of ROTL sub-types, for example the number of ROTL incidences for ‘Maintaining Family Ties’ has increased from 611 (between July and September 2020) to 8,365 in the latest quarter. This represents a percentage change of almost 1,300% (i.e. around 14 times as high as the same quarter in 2020).
This is associated with changes in operational practices, moving away from COVID-19 restrictions that had been imposed on the prison regime.
The prison population stood at 79,092 on 31 December 2021.
The sentenced prison population stood at 65,411 (83% of the prison population); the remand prison population stood at 12,780 (16%) and the non-criminal prison population stood at 901 (1%)
Figure 1: Prison population, December 2001 to 2021 (Source: Table 1.1)
Remand prison population
Following a decreasing trend since 2014, the remand population has dramatically increased since June 2019. As at 31 December 2021, the remand population was 12,780. This is a small reduction of 210 prisoners on the previous quarter (September 2021), but it is still the second highest quarterly figure since September 2011 and the highest December figure since 2008. This was driven by a 16% increase in the convicted unsentenced population as compared with 31 December 2020 whilst the untried population increased by 1% over the same period.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected normal court operations. Information recently released by the Ministry of Justice [footnote 1] suggests that the time between offence and completion at the Crown Court increased by 11% between Q3 2020 and Q3 2021 from a median of 406 days to 449 days. However, the same metric fell by 5% at magistrates’ court for the same period.
Most of those in custody on remand were being held for either:
Violence against the person (28% of the untried population and 20% of the convicted
Drug offences (27% of the untried population and 33% of the convicted unsentenced
Sentenced prison population
The sentenced population was 65,411 which is virtually unchanged (less than 1% increase) from the same point 12 months earlier. Broadly speaking, there were increases in the sentenced population serving sentence bands of ‘less than 4 years’ and decreases in the numbers of those serving ‘4 years or more’ (apart from a 10% rise in those serving an Extended Determinate Sentence).
The number of prisoners serving immediate custodial sentences for drug offences has increased by 6% over the past year. There has also been a 46% increase in the convicted unsentenced population over the same period.
While this is one of the largest offence groups amongst prisoners serving immediate custodial sentences, the population had been falling since mid-2018 after a record high since at least 2002. However, over the past year, the number has risen gradually again. There was a 3% increase (to 12,130) in the 12 months to 31 December 2021. There were also 21% and 29% increases in the number of untried and convicted-unsentenced prisoners respectively in this offence group over the same period.
‘Violence Against the Person (VATP)’
Three in every ten (30%) inmates serving an immediate custodial sentence have been convicted of a VATP offence. This proportion has increased from the ‘one in four’ (25%) level seen in recent years.
Public order offences
Imprisonment in relation to public order offences has seen some of the largest increases over the past year. There have been an 18% increase in the sentenced population, a 56% increase in the convicted unsentenced population, and a 15% increase in the untried population when compared with December 2020. It is likely that this is primarily due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the justice system. The number of prisoners serving immediate custodial sentences for public order offences was unusually low in December 2020 (down 19% on the previous year) most likely due to the low number of defendants proceeded against in April – June 2020 (due to courts prioritising the most serious offences) and the relatively short average custodial sentence length for public order offences (7.1 months in 2020) [footnote 2].
Extended Determinate Sentences (EDS)
EDSs constitute a custodial term, the majority of which is served in prison, followed by an additional extended period of licence in the community. They can be imposed if the offender is found guilty of, or has a previous conviction for, a specific sexual, violent or terrorist offence. On 31 December 2021, 6,461 prisoners were serving such sentences; a 10% increase compared to the same time last year.
As at 31 December 2021, there were 8,626 (8,297 male; 329 female) prisoners serving indeterminate sentences (Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) and life sentences). Although this represents a slight overall decrease (-2%), there was a 21% increase in the number of prisoners serving indeterminate sentences in the 18-20 years age bracket when compared with 31 December 2020.
The number of unreleased prisoners (7,024) serving life sentences has increased by 1% compared to one year ago but there was a small (3%) decrease in the number of prisoners serving life sentences still held beyond their tariff expiry date. The number of unreleased IPP prisoners fell by 13% to 1,602. At point of sentencing, offenders are given a minimum time period (“tariff”) that they must serve in prison before they can apply to the Parole Board for release. The majority of the remaining unreleased IPP prisoners have been held for more than eight years beyond the end of their tariff.
The number of recalled prisoners serving life sentences increased by 12% to 665 when compared to December 2020 whilst the number of recalled Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) prisoners saw a 2% increase to 1,360.
Recall to custody
The overall prison population who have been recalled to custody (9,559 prisoners) has increased by 6% relative to the total a year earlier. This is the highest monthly figure ever. The increasing recall population is likely driven by a combination of factors such as an increase in the average length of determinate sentences and an increase in the number of people serving indeterminate sentences which result in an increase in the size of the population released on license from which the recall population arises.
The rate at which the number of recalled prisoners is increasing has been lower during the COVID-19 pandemic than in the preceding two years (7% increase Dec 2019 – 2020; 21% increase Dec 2018 – 2019; and 13% increase Dec 2017- 2018) [footnote 3].
Foreign National Offenders (FNOs)
There were 9,806 (2,651 remand, 6,318 sentenced and 837 non-criminal) foreign nationals held in custody as at 31 December 2021; representing 12% of the total prison population. The number of FNOs in the prison population has increased by 3% compared to 31 December 2020. This can be attributed to the effect of COVID-19 on the normal operations of FNO early removal schemes. The number of non-criminal foreign national prisoners fell by 4% compared to 31 December 2020. The most common nationalities after British Nationals in prisons are Albanian (15% of the FNO prison population), Polish (9%), Romanian (8%), Irish (6%), Lithuanian (4%), and Jamaican (4%).
There were decreases in the number of prisoners in each age group under 30 whereas there was an increase in all the age groups above 30. For example, there was a 4% decrease in the number of prisoners aged 21-24 and a 7% increase in the number of prisoners ages 60-69 when compared to December 2020. This was mainly driven by changes in the demography of the sentenced population, but the pattern is largely true of the remand population as well, although it is less clear in the female population. This pattern of an ageing prison population is consistent with the longer-term changes seen over the last twenty years [footnote 4].
2. Prison receptions and admissions
15,103 individuals were received into custody as first receptions in the latest quarter.
9,383 were remand first receptions, 5,676 were sentenced first receptions and 44 were civil non-criminal first receptions.
Offender first receptions
The total number of first receptions between July and September 2021 was 1% lower than the same quarter in 2020. The number of first receptions has decreased this quarter and remains lower than pre-pandemic levels. This reflects the court processes that have improved since the early months of the pandemic but not recovered to pre-pandemic levels (see footnote 1).
There were 2,506 first receptions of foreign nationals during Q3 2021, which is 2% lower compared to the same quarter in 2020. The representation of foreign nationals amongst first receptions has remained the same since 2020, with around 17% of first receptions having been foreign nationals. The five foreign nationalities with the highest numbers of first receptions in the latest quarter were: Albanian (385), Romanian (308), Polish (290), Lithuanian (142) and Irish (129). When taken together, these five nationalities accounted for 50% of the first receptions of foreign nationals in Q3 2021.
As compared to the same quarter in 2020, the number of untried and recall admissions decreased – untried by 10% and recall admissions by 8%. The number of convicted unsentenced admissions remained the same and sentenced admissions increased by 6%.
This can be attributed to the increased number of court outcomes arising from court recovery following an easing of the impacts of COVID-19 on court functions.
When considering immediate custodial sentenced admissions by offence group, violence against the person and drug offences had the largest number of sentenced admissions overall. The largest overall increase, as compared to Q3 2020, occurred in the sexual offences group, which increased by 66%. As compared to females, males made up a larger proportion of sentenced receptions across each offence, but there are certain offences where this difference was more pronounced – sexual offences, drug offences, possession of weapons and summary motoring (see figure 2 below). The largest representation of females was in the fraud offence group (they accounted for 20% of all immediate custodial sentenced admissions for fraud offences).
Figure 2: Representation (percentage) of male and female immediate custodial sentenced prisoner admissions in each offence group between July and September 2021 (Source: Table 2.5b)
When compared with the same quarter last year, the sentence length band with the largest increase in the number of admissions was 4 years or more (excluding indeterminate sentences), with a 53% increase, which can also be attributed to the prioritisation of prosecutions for more serious offences that carry longer sentences, as mentioned above.
Former Members of the Armed Forces
When individuals are first received into custody, they complete a Basic Custody Screening (BCS) process. This serves to identify their needs in areas including employment, childcare and healthcare. As part of this process, they are asked whether they had served in the armed services. Between July and September 2021, 138 matched individuals first received into custody answered that they had served in the armed services – this represented 2% of those who provided a response to the question at the point of their first reception during the latest quarter.
11,750 offenders were released from custody in the latest quarter.
11,615 releases from determinate sentences and 135 from indeterminate sentences.
Prison releases from custodial sentences
The number of prisoner releases between July and September 2021 was 6% lower than the same quarter in 2020.
The number of releases from sentences of 12 months to less than 4 years has continued to fall, with a decrease of 13% between July and September 2021 as compared to the same period in 2020. This reflects the general trend in the prison population away from short sentenced offenders, to those serving longer determinate sentences. Additionally, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic the prosecution of more serious offences has been prioritised, meaning that fewer prisoners have been received into prison and thus been released from the shorter sentences handed out for less serious offences [footnote 5].
Between July and September 2021, there was a smaller decrease, of 5%, in the number of prisoners released from sentences of 4 years or more (excluding indeterminate sentences), as compared to the same period in 2020. A larger decrease was seen for releases from indeterminate sentences, of 25%.
Releases on Home Detention Curfew (HDC)
The number of offenders released on HDC in the latest quarter dropped by 6%, to 2,364. The number eligible for HDC over the same period also fell, to 9,375, a decrease of 2% since the same quarter in 2020.
Releases on Temporary Licence (ROTL)
Most ROTL was suspended for much of the pandemic period. HMPPS has, however, worked closely with public health authorities to re-introduce access to ROTL [footnote 6] when and where it is safe to do so, and accounting for the changing national restrictions.
As a result of these changes to prison regimes, ROTL numbers have continued to increase in the latest quarter. There were 74,995 incidences of ROTL during the quarter ending September 2021, which represents a 162% increase compared to the same quarter in 2020. Of the ROTL incidences in the latest quarter two thirds were for ‘Work Related’ reasons. For the first time since the COVID-19 temporary release codes were introduced, no prisoners were released for these reasons.
The number of individuals receiving at least one incidence of ROTL between July and September 2021 also rose following the changes to prison regimes, up 130% from the same quarter in 2020. 3,712 individuals were released on temporary licence in the latest quarter, compared to an average of 4,500 per quarter during the two years preceding the pandemic.
There were 142 Temporary Release Failures (TRFs) in the latest quarter. TRFs as a proportion of temporary release incidences stood at 1 in 530 between July and September 2021.This compares to 1 in 490 the previous quarter (April-June 2021), and 1 in 1,240 the previous year (July-September 2020).
Between July and September 2021 there were 16,507 incidences of prisoner transfer, with 14,346 prisoners having at least one incidence of transfer. Both figures represent increases since the same period of 2020, with rises of 18% and 12% respectively, as non-essential transfers have resumed after being stopped at the end of March 2020 in response to the pandemic.
The total number of offenders on probation (i.e. court orders and pre/post-supervision) at the end of September 2021 was 234,827.
This represents a 5% increase compared to the end of September 2020.
Latest figures on probation starts continue to increase since operational restrictions [footnote 7], introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, were lifted in late spring 2020. This has had an ongoing knock-on effect on caseload figures whereby the number of offenders supervised by the Probation Service overall continues to increase and so recover to pre-pandemic levels [footnote 8],
As at 30 September 2021, there were 234,827 offenders supervised by the Probation Service (Figure 3), representing a 5% increase compared to the 30 September 2020 and a 2% increase compared to the 30 June 2021.
Between the end of September 2020 and the end of September 2021, court order caseload increased by 20% from 89,385 to 107,364, with the number of offenders on a community order (CO) and those on a suspended sentence order (SSO) with requirements increasing by 23% and 17% respectively.
The total caseload of offenders supervised before or after release from prison at the end of September 2021 was 131,490, representing a decrease of 4% compared to the end of September 2020.
Figure 3: Number of offenders under Probation Service supervision, 30 September 2011 to 30 September 2021 (source for 2018 to 2021: Table 4.6; source for years prior to 2018: Table 4.7)
Between July and September 2021, 40,183 offenders started court order or pre-release probation supervision (Figure 4), representing a decrease of 2% on the previous quarter and an increase of 5% compared to the same quarter a year ago.
Between July and September 2021, the number of offenders starting court orders decreased by 3% following the previous quarter and increased by 8% compared to the same quarter a year ago. The number of offenders starting COs decreased by 3% to 15,924 compared to the previous quarter and increased by 5% compared to the same quarter a year ago. Meanwhile, the number of offenders starting SSOs with requirements decreased 1% to 8,543 compared to the previous quarter and increased by 14% compared to the same quarter in the previous year. Over the latest quarter, there was a small decrease in the number of offenders starting pre-release supervision compared to the previous quarter (from 15,728 to 15,555) as well as the same quarter in the previous year (from 15,632 to 15,555).
Figure 4: Number of offenders starting supervision under the Probation Service, October to December 2018 to July to September 2021 (source: Table 4.1)
Between July and September 2021, 24,814 requirements started under COs and 14,874 requirements started under SSOs, representing increases of 5% and 16% respectively compared to the same period in the previous year. Over the same period, rehabilitation requirements started under COs and SSOs increased by 11% to 10,435 and by 20% to 6,739 respectively; it remains the most common requirement included within a CO or SSO. Under COs and SSOs, there were increases across most requirement types compared to the same quarter in 2020. Most notably under COs, mental health, drug treatment and alcohol treatment requirements increased by 83% to 225, by 26% to 816 and by 24% to 859 respectively. Under SSOs, mental health, alcohol treatment and drug treatment requirements increased by 117% to 152, by 26% to 450 and by 17% to 542 respectively.
In terms of the most frequently used combinations of requirements under COs in July to September 2021, there were increases of 31%, 19% and 14% in rehabilitation requirements combined separately with drug treatment, alcohol treatment and unpaid work requirements respectively compared to the same period a year ago. Under SSOs, rehabilitation requirements combined separately with alcohol treatment, unpaid work and drug treatment requirements increased by 27%, 27% and 25% respectively.
Of the 10,333 COs and 6,325 SSOs terminated between July and September 2021, 72% and 79% respectively were terminated successfully, i.e. ran their full course or were terminated early for good progress.
In the quarter July to September 2021, the total number of pre-sentence reports (PSRs) prepared by the Probation Service decreased by 2% to 22,718 compared to the previous quarter and by 34% compared to the same quarter in 2020.
Furthermore, 87% of immediate custodial sentences proposed in PSRs resulted in that sentence being given in the year ending September 2021, thus continuing to represent the highest concordance between sentence proposed and sentence given.
5. Licence recalls
The number of licence recalls between July and September 2021 was 5,699, of which 417 were recalls from Home Detention Curfew (HDC).
The total number of recalls decreased by 7% compared to the same quarter in 2020.
The total number of quarterly recalls trended upwards between October-December 2016 and July-September 2019. There was a marked increase in the number of quarterly recalls from early 2018 to July-September 2019, mostly due to increases in the number of HDC recalls and recalls of offenders from determinate sentences of 12 months or more. However, the number of quarterly recalls then trended downwards from the fourth quarter of 2019, including before COVID-19 restrictions were introduced, until 2021. Although there have been successive increases in the number of recalls in the last two quarters, partly due to relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, the latest number represents a decrease of 7% from the same quarter a year ago.
The guidance for courts and prisons implemented in 2020 has remained in place so as to assist courts, custodial and detention staff in addressing Covid-19 hence reducing the rate of transmission within prisons. This has had a continuing effect on the number of court proceedings and new entrants into custody [footnote 9].
Following relative stability up to January-March 2020, the number of quarterly recalls of offenders released from a sentence of under 12 months had generally been falling until 2021. For the first time since July-September 2016, the number fell below 2,000 in April-June 2020 (partly due to the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions), and it has continued to stay below 2,000. Although this has remained broadly stable in the last two quarters, the latest figure (1,716) is a decrease of 13% from a year ago.
Following general increases from late 2016, quarterly recalls of offenders with a sentence of 12 months or more (including those with indeterminate sentences), like the overall recalls, have trended downward since the fourth quarter of 2019 until 2021. Between July and September 2021, there were 3,983 recalls of such offenders, a decrease of 4% in comparison to the same quarter in the previous year, but an increase of 9% compared with the previous quarter.
Ethnicity proportions in quarterly recalls have remained relatively stable, with about 8 in 10 recalls being white, 9% being black and 4% being Asian.
There usually is more than one reason for recalling an offender on licence. Of recalls in July-September 2021, about 39% involved a charge of further offending, 72% involved non-compliance, 30% involved failure to keep in touch, and 25% involved failure to reside.
Between July and September 2021, 133 IPP prisoners and 58 prisoners serving a life sentence were rereleased, having previously been returned to custody for a breach of licence conditions. These together represent a decrease of 4% from the same quarter a year ago.
Offenders not returned to custody
Of all those released on licence and recalled to custody due to breaching the conditions of their licence between April 1999 and September 2021, there were 2,089 who had not been returned to custody by the end of December 2021.
A further 17 offenders had not been returned to custody as of December 2021 after recall between 1984 and April 1999, meaning the total number of offenders not returned to custody at the end of December 2021 was 2,106. These figures include some offenders believed to be dead or living abroad but who have not been confirmed as dead or deported.
Of the 2,106 not returned to custody by 31 December 2021, 326 had originally been serving a prison sentence for violence against the person offences and a further 66 for sexual offences.
There were 36,482 adjudication outcomes between July and September 2021.
This is an increase of 2% on the same quarter in the previous year. Additional days were awarded as punishment on 557 occasions in this quarter.
Seven out ten (69%) adjudication were proven.
There was a 4% increase in the number of proven adjudications (to 25,267) from the same quarter in 2020. This in turn resulted in a 7% rise in the number of punishments (to 42,734).
A third (37%) of proven adjudications were for offences of ‘disobedience and disrespect’, with the next largest category being unauthorised transactions (23%). The number of proven adjudications for ‘disobedience and disrespect’ and violence rose by 7% (to 9,259) and 9% (to 4,002) respectively while unauthorised transactions fell by 4% (to 5,910) compared to the same quarter of the previous year.
This is the first quarter since Q2 2020 (inclusive) where quarterly averages have slightly exceeded 4,000 offences. This was largely driven by measures against COVID implemented since March 2020 to reduce physical interactions amongst inmates and prison staff impacting on the level of violence in custody.
Additional days were awarded as punishment on 557 occasions between July and September 2021; this is a 15% fall compared with the same period in 2020. A total of 8,380 days were awarded in the latest quarter – this is a 24% fall compared with the same quarter in 2020 (10,996 days added between July and September 2020).
Although the overall number of adjudication outcomes increased slightly in comparison to Q3 2020, quarterly cases have not exceeded 40,000 since the start of the lockdown. Measures implemented at the start of the lockdown in March 2020 have remained in place, with temporary regime changes to account for differences in prisons across the country, local restriction tiers and in accordance with public health advice.
A number of policy interventions were made to suspend discipline hearings requiring an Independent Adjudicator (IA) between 23 March and 22 June 2020. Referrals to IAs, which were subject to new guidelines, have now resumed but are held virtually. This impacted on the number of referrals, being at 884, far below the averages recorded before the lockdown.
In addition, other changes to the prison regime have been implemented to support operational delivery. Those include new rules for governors, enabling them to: limit the movement of prisoners; implement social distancing; compartmentalise prisons to isolate symptomatic prisoners; quarantine new entrants; and so forth. These measures remain in place and taken together have reduced interactions between prisoners and staff, hence reducing the number of adjudications and related punishments [footnote 10].
More information about the trends in Adjudications between 2011 and 2018 can be found in ‘The Adjudications Story’ publication.
This publication presents quarterly data trends.
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Next update: 28 April 2022
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Latest figures for the quarter July to September 2021 are provided and compared to the same period in 2020. This is with the exception of the prison population where more recent data are available (31 December 2021).
It covers flows into these services (receptions into prison or probation starts) and flows out (releases from prison or probation terminations) as well as the caseload of these services at specific points in time.
Offender Management Statistics are produced and handled by the Ministry of Justice’s (MOJ) analytical professionals and production staff. Pre-release access of up to 24 hours is granted to the following persons:
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