Self-harm in prison custody

Published

1. Main facts and figures

  • between 2012 and 2020, the rate of self-harm among prisoners in public prisons in England and Wales went up in every ethnic group

  • the increase was biggest among prisoners with Mixed ethnicity – from 136 to 443 self-harm incidents per 1,000 prisoners, an increase of 226%

  • out of all ethnic groups, White prisoners had the highest rate of self-harm every year – in 2020, there were 823 self-harm incidents for every 1,000 White prisoners

2. Things you need to know

What the data measures

The data shows the number of self-harm incidents in public prisons in England and Wales. It also shows the rate of incidents for every 1,000 prisoners in each ethnic group.

Self-harm is any act where a prisoner deliberately harms themselves. This is regardless of how they do it, what their intent is, or how badly they are hurt.

Rates for every 1,000 prisoners are rounded to the nearest whole number.

Not included in the data

Values based on 2 or fewer prisoners are not shown. This is to protect prisoners’ confidentiality. No incident numbers have been suppressed when calculating rates.

How self-harm rates are calculated

The rate shown for each ethnic group is the average number of self-harm incidents in each year for every 1,000 prisoners from that ethnic group.

The ethnic groups used in the data

Data is shown for 5 aggregated ethnic groups:

  • Asian
  • Black
  • Mixed
  • White
  • Other

This means estimates are shown for these groups as a whole.

Prisoners reported their own ethnicity. About 95% of prisoners reported their ethnicity for each year of the period studied.

Methodology

Read the detailed methodology document (PDF opens in a new window or tab) for the data on this page.

Some prisoners may be involved in more than one self-harm incident, in which case they will be included in the data more than once.

There are more White prisoners compared with other ethnic groups. You can read more about how group size affects the reliability of data.

In the data file

See Download the data for numbers of self-harm incidents from 2012 to 2020 for:

  • each ethnic group
  • prisoners whose ethnicity was not known

3. By ethnicity over time

Self-harm incidents for every 1,000 prisoners by ethnicity over time
Time Asian Black Mixed White Other
Rate per 1,000 prisoners Rate per 1,000 prisoners Rate per 1,000 prisoners Rate per 1,000 prisoners Rate per 1,000 prisoners
2012 91 65 136 325 157
2013 98 72 198 326 213
2014 83 72 231 363 185
2015 124 81 274 450 225
2016 146 94 387 551 347
2017 148 100 328 621 357
2018 162 118 390 800 371
2019 178 186 447 892 465
2020 197 150 443 823 344

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV)

Summary of Self-harm in prison custody By ethnicity over time Summary

The data shows that:

  • between 2012 and 2020, the rate of self-harm went up in every ethnic group

  • the rate of self-harm for prisoners with Mixed ethnicity went up from 136 to 443 incidents for every 1,000 prisoners – the biggest increase out of all ethnic groups (226%) and the second highest rate

  • in 2020, there were 823 self-harm incidents for every 1,000 White prisoners – the highest rate out of all ethnic groups

  • the lowest rates of self-harm were for Black prisoners (150 incidents for every 1,000 prisoners) and Asian prisoners (197 incidents for every 1,000 prisoners)

4. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Administrative data

Type of statistic

Official statistics

Publisher

Ministry of Justice

Publication frequency

Yearly

Purpose of data source

This data is used by the government to:

  • inform policy development
  • monitor the impact of changes over time
  • model future changes and their impact on the prison system

5. Download the data

Self harm in custody data - Spreadsheet (csv) 2 KB

This file contains the following: measure, ethnicity, year, rate per 1,000, numerator