Prison officer workforce


Last updated 30 April 2018 - see all updates

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1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2016, just over 5% of prison officers in England and Wales for whom ethnicity was known came from the Asian, Black, Mixed ethnicity and Other (including Chinese) ethnic groups combined
Things you need to know

The numbers in this measure are based on a headcount of prison officers. This means that some of these prison officers could be working part time rather than full time.

Prison officers working in public sector prisons give details of their ethnicity to an online administration system. However, they are not required to state their ethnicity.

In March 2016, 86% of prison officers (16,448 out of 19,089) gave their ethnicity. The percentages presented in this data exclude prison officers for whom ethnicity wasn't known.

Prison officers are likely to live in, and be recruited from, areas close to prisons. This means that the percentages of prison offers from different ethnic backgrounds may be similar to the percentages of working age people who live in those areas. Many public sector prisons in England and Wales are located in areas with a high percentage of White people in the general population.

What the data measures

This data measures the number of prison officers in public sector prisons in England and Wales, broken down by ethnicity.

It includes prison officers in salary bands 3 to 5, which covers:

  • frontline prison officers (including specialists)
  • supervising officers
  • custodial managers

It is a ‘snapshot’ of the number of prison officers employed on 31 March each year.

The data does not include staff employed in private prisons.

The ethnic categories used in this data

Prison officers were asked to place themselves within the following 5 broad ethnic categories:

  • Asian/Asian British
  • Black/African/Caribbean/Black British
  • Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups
  • White
  • Other ethnic group (including Chinese)

2. Prison officer workforce by ethnicity over time

Percentage and number of prison officers in public sector prisons by ethnicity over time
2015 2016
Ethnicity 2015 % 2015 Officers 2016 % 2016 Officers
Asian or Asian British 1.2 206 1.3 206
Black or Black British 2.3 401 2.4 396
Chinese or Other ethnic group 0.7 121 0.7 108
Mixed 1.2 199 1.3 213
White 94.6 16,180 94.4 15,525
Not Known / Prefer not to say N/A* 1,851 N/A* 2,641

Download table data for ‘Prison officer workforce by ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Prison officer workforce by ethnicity over time’ (CSV)

Summary of Prison officer workforce Prison officer workforce by ethnicity over time Summary

  • as at 31 March 2016, 94.4% of prison officers for whom ethnicity was known were White (including White ethnic minorities)
  • 5.6% of prison officers were from the Asian, Black, Mixed and Other ethnic groups (including Chinese) combined – this is roughly the same percentage as 2015
  • 13.8% of prison officers didn’t state their ethnicity in 2015 (compared with 9.8% in 2015)

3. Methodology

Data is derived from the staff administration system used by the National Offender Management Service. The numbers represent the data held at the point when extracts were taken (31 March each year).

Quality and methodology information

Further technical information

National Offender Management Service Staff Equalities Annual Report (PDF opens in a new window or tab) (PDF)

4. Data sources


Type of data

Administrative data

Type of statistic

Official statistics


Ministry of Justice

Publication frequency


Purpose of data source

This data is used to inform policy development, to monitor the impact of changes over time and to model future changes and their impact on the prison workforce. The data forms the basis for workforce monitoring and decision making.

5. Download the data

Prison officers - Spreadsheet (csv) 2 KB

This file contains the following: year, ethnicity, value, denominator, numerator.