Violence involving prisoners

Published

1. Main facts and figures

  • there were 21,489 recorded assaults in public prisons in England and Wales in 2020, compared with 32,800 in 2019 – a 34% decrease

  • between 2012 and 2020, the rate of assaults for every 1,000 prisoners went up in every ethnic group

  • in every ethnic group, the rate of assaults was highest in 2018 or 2019

  • prisoners in the Mixed ethnic group were more likely than any other ethnic group to be victims of assault

  • Black prisoners were most likely out of all ethnic groups to be assailants or involved in incidents where the victim or assailant was unclear

2. Things you need to know

What the data measures

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

Violent incidents are where a prisoner:

  • assaults another prisoner or a member of prison staff (‘assailants’)
  • is assaulted by another prisoner (‘victims’)
  • is involved in an incident where there is no clear assailant or victim (‘fighters’)

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

Not included in the data

The data is based on the number of violent incidents. It does not include information about:

  • the number of people involved
  • any staff or visitors who may have been victims or otherwise involved

How violent incident rates are calculated

The rate shown for each ethnic group is the average number of violent incidents each year for every 1,000 prisoners of 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 violent incident, in which case they will be included in the data more than once and the number of prisoners involved does not equal the total number of assaults.

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 rates rounded to 1 decimal place.

3. By ethnicity and role in the incident

Violent incidents for every 1,000 prisoners, and total number of incidents, by ethnicity and role in the incident
Assailant Fighter Victim
Ethnicity Assailant Rate per 1,000 prisoners Assailant Number of incidents Fighter Rate per 1,000 prisoners Fighter Number of incidents Victim Rate per 1,000 prisoners Victim Number of incidents
Asian 129 816 85 539 98 619
Black 319 3,284 185 1,903 116 1,191
Mixed 317 1,237 165 643 128 501
White 145 8,380 82 4,755 95 5,448
Other 203 241 142 169 114 136
Unknown N/A* 224 N/A* 93 N/A* 110

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and role in the incident’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and role in the incident’ (CSV)

Summary of Violence involving prisoners By ethnicity and role in the incident Summary

The data shows that:

  • prisoners from the Mixed ethnic group were more likely than any other group to be victims of assault (128 incidents for every 1,000 prisoners)

  • Black prisoners were most likely out of all ethnic groups to be assailants (319 incidents for every 1,000 prisoners) or involved in incidents with no clear victim or assailant (185 incidents for every 1,000 prisoners)

  • Black prisoners were the second most likely ethnic group to be victims (116 incidents for every 1,000 prisoners)

  • Asian prisoners were least likely out of all ethnic groups to be assailants (129 incidents for every 1,000 prisoners)

  • White prisoners were the least likely out of all ethnic groups to be victims (95 incidents for every 1,000 prisoners)

4. By ethnicity over time (assailants only)

Assaults for every 1,000 prisoners, and number of assaults, by ethnicity over time
Asian Black Mixed White Other Unknown
Time Asian Assaults per 1,000 prisoners Asian Number Black Assaults per 1,000 prisoners Black Number Mixed Assaults per 1,000 prisoners Mixed Number White Assaults per 1,000 prisoners White Number Other Assaults per 1,000 prisoners Other Number Unknown Assaults per 1,000 prisoners Unknown Number
2012 71 454 180 2,009 182 579 72 4,458 95 94 N/A* 211
2013 96 619 188 2,031 217 703 78 4,787 111 111 N/A* 145
2014 89 592 217 2,325 262 905 95 5,914 120 123 N/A* 80
2015 118 810 285 3,017 336 1,177 127 8,026 163 160 N/A* 60
2016 150 1,032 338 3,549 405 1,465 167 10,442 221 225 N/A* 69
2017 167 1,157 379 4,051 433 1,624 179 11,196 269 293 N/A* 75
2018 200 1,333 433 4,505 479 1,787 218 13,159 241 290 N/A* 194
2019 185 1,226 438 4,633 452 1,755 207 12,449 290 374 N/A* 452
2020 129 816 319 3,284 317 1,237 145 8,380 203 241 N/A* 224

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

Summary of Violence involving prisoners By ethnicity over time (assailants only) Summary

The data shows that:

  • between 2012 and 2020, the rate of assaults per 1,000 prisoners almost doubled in the Asian, Black and Mixed ethnic groups – it more than doubled in the White and Other ethnic groups

  • in every year between 2012 and 2019, prisoners from the Mixed ethnic group were the most likely out of all ethnic groups to be assailants, and Black prisoners were the second most likely

  • in 2020, Black prisoners were the most likely out of all ethnic groups to be assailants, and prisoners from the Mixed ethnic group were second most likely

5. 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

6. Download the data

Violence involving prisoners data - Spreadsheet (csv) 31 KB

This file contains the following: measure, ethnicity, year, type of involvement, rate per 1,000, number