Self-inflicted deaths in prison custody
1. Main facts and figures
between 2012 and 2020, the number of self-inflicted deaths among White prisoners in public prisons in England and Wales went up from 49 to 57
the rate also went up, from 0.8 to 1.0 deaths for every 1,000 White prisoners
the number of self-inflicted deaths among prisoners from the Asian, Black, Mixed and Other ethnic groups was too small to be able to make reliable generalisations
2. Things you need to know
What the data measures
The data shows the number of self-inflicted deaths in public prisons in England and Wales. It also shows the rate of self-inflicted deaths for every 1,000 prisoners in each ethnic group.
Self-inflicted deaths include suicides and cases where prisoners unintentionally caused their own death. This is the definition used by the Office for National Statistics for suicides in the general population and it is used because it is not always known whether a person intended to commit suicide.
Rates for every 1,000 prisoners are rounded to 1 decimal place.
How self-inflicted death rates are calculated
The rate shown for each ethnic group is the average number of self-inflicted deaths in the 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:
This means estimates are shown for these groups as a whole.
The data does not include prisoners whose ethnicity was not known. About 95% of prisoners reported their ethnicity for each year of the period studied.
Read the detailed methodology document (PDF opens in a new window or tab) for the data on this page.
All deaths in prison custody are subject to a police investigation and a coroner’s inquest, which can sometimes lead to deaths being reclassified. Because of this, all figures for 2020 are provisional.
There are more White prisoners compared with other ethnic groups. You can read more about how group size affects the reliability of data.
3. By ethnicity over time
|Time||Asian Rate per 1,000 prisoners||Asian Number||Black Rate per 1,000 prisoners||Black Number||Mixed Rate per 1,000 prisoners||Mixed Number||White Rate per 1,000 prisoners||White Number||Other Rate per 1,000 prisoners||Other Number|
Download table data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV)
Summary of Self-inflicted deaths in prison custody By ethnicity over time Summary
The data shows that:
in 2020, there were 57 self-inflicted deaths among White prisoners
there were 10 self-inflicted deaths among prisoners from the Asian, Black, Mixed and Other ethnic groups combined
between 2012 and 2020, the rate of self-inflicted deaths went up from 0.8 to 1.0 for every 1,000 White prisoners – it reached its highest point in 2016, at 1.7
the rate of self-inflicted deaths in the Other ethnic group between 2016 and 2020 was based on a very small number of deaths (between 1 and 5) and is therefore not reliable
4. Data sources
Safety in custody quarterly: update to December 2020
Type of data
Type of statistic
Ministry of Justice
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
This file contains the following: measure, ethnicity, year, sex, value, number