United Kingdom prison population

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The United Kingdom has three distinct legal systems with a separate prison system in each: one for both England and Wales, one for Scotland, and one for Northern Ireland.

The total UK prison population was 83,618 (0.13% of the population), 79,749 men and 3,869 women in 2018.[1] Men are 22 times as likely as women to be imprisoned.

Prison population[edit]

Ethnic minority

Ethnic minority backgrounds constitute only 14 per cent of the U.K. population, yet 25 per cent of prisoners are BAME. MP David Lammy has written a report on race relations within the criminal justice system which concludes the above . In fact it states that a BAME person is more likely to be inprisoned in the UK than the USA.


A growing number of British prisoners are former armed forces members. According to a study reported in the Guardian in 2009, 8,500 former servicemen were imprisoned, making up almost 10% of the prison population.[2]


The number of British prisoners aged over 60 years rose by 130% between 2002 and 2013, a shift attributed to an increase in the convictions for historic sex abuse. The increase was reported after the 2012 commencement of Operation Yewtree, a police investigation into sexual abuse allegations—predominantly the abuse of children—against the British media personality Jimmy Savile and others.[3] In relation to over 4,000 over-60 prisoners in UK prisons, Professor David Wilson of Birmingham City University stated in July 2014:

Four out of 10 of these prisoners (the over-60s) were convicted of sex offences and people over 60 are the fastest growing age group in the prison estate, yet there is no national strategy for the elderly who get sent to prison ... The Prison Service needs to develop a strategy to cope with this fastest growing section of the prison population or they will simply be failing in their duty of care to the elderly people that they are locking up.[3]

In 2018 there were more than 1,500 prisoners over 70, including more than 200 aged over 80, creating increasing demands on health and social care systems.[4]


Scotland recognized the growth in the prison population and acted accordingly to make adjustments to how the law was carried out so that the system operates efficiently. One of the actions made was to decrease the number of stop-and-searches and between the period of June 2015 and August 2016, there was reportedly an 81% decrease in those actions when statistics from 2014 were compared.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Prison population figures: 2018 - Publications - GOV.UK". www.gov.uk. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  2. ^ Travis, Alan (2009-09-25). "Revealed: the hidden army in UK prisons". The Guardian. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 2009-09-25.
  3. ^ a b Jamie Doward and Gaby Bissett (6 July 2014). "Rolf Harris leaves behind gilded lifestyle for vulnerable prison unit". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  4. ^ "Could elderly prisoners move into secure care homes?". Inside Time. 30 January 2018. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  5. ^ Who’s in Prison? A Snapshot of Scotland’s Prison Population. The Scottish Centre for Crime & Justice Research, 2015, Who’s in Prison? A Snapshot of Scotland’s Prison Population, www.sccjr.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/SCCJR-Whos-in-prison.pdf.

External links[edit]