Prison officer workforce

Published

1. Main facts and figures

  • as at 31 March 2018, just over 94% of prison officers in England and Wales for whom ethnicity was known were White (including White ethnic minorities), and just under 6% came from the Asian, Black, Mixed ethnicity and Other ethnic groups combined
  • from 2015 to 2018, among prison officers whose ethnicity was known, the percentage from the Black ethnic group increased slightly, from 2.3% to 2.7%, and the percentage of White prison officers decreased slightly, from 94.6% to 94.2%
  • the percentage of prison officers who didn’t state their ethnicity increased from 9.8% in 2015 to 33.5% in 2018, largely because of low declaration rates among new recruits, and the adoption of a new platform for self-declaration
  • as at the 2011 Census, 85.6% of working age people (aged 16 to 64 years) in England and Wales were White, 8.1% were Asian, 3.4% were Black, 1.8% had Mixed ethnicity, and 1.1% were from the Other ethnic group
Things you need to know

Previous editions of this page should not be used as there was a mistake in the labelling of the ethnicity classification. This has been corrected in this version.

The numbers shown here are based on a headcount – the total number of prison officers, regardless of whether they work part-time or full-time.

Prison officers working in public sector prisons are asked to give details of their ethnicity when they join, but it is not a formal requirement.

The percentages shown here are calculated using the total number of prison officers who reported their ethnicity. In March 2018, 66.5% of prison officers (14,503 out of 21,821) recorded their ethnicity. As 33.5% of prison officers didn’t state their ethnicity, this adds some uncertainty to the percentages shown here.

The percentage of prison officers who didn’t state their ethnicity has increased sharply, from 9.5% in 2015 to 33.5% in 2018. This is largely because of low declaration rates among new recruits, and the adoption of a new platform for self-declaration.

Prison officers are likely to live in, and be recruited from, areas close to prisons. This means that the percentages of prison officers 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 shows the number of prison officers in public sector prisons in England and Wales, and the percentage of the workforce from each ethnic group.

It is a ‘snapshot’ of the number of prison officers employed on 31 March 2018.

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

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

The data does not include:

  • staff employed in private prisons
  • staff on salary bands 1 to 2 (which includes cleaners and administrative support workers) and bands 6 and above (which includes governors and deputy governors, site managers and heads of functions like human resources)
The ethnic categories used in this data

Prison officers were asked to place themselves within the following 5 broad ethnic groups, based on the 2011 Census ethnicity classification:

  • Asian/Asian British
  • Black/African/Caribbean/Black British
  • Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups
  • White
  • Other ethnic backgrounds

2. By ethnicity

Percentage and number of prison officers in public sector prisons from each ethnic group
Ethnicity % of prison officers Number of prison officers
Asian 1.3 182
Black 2.7 387
Mixed 1.3 190
White 94.2 13,661
Other 0.6 83
Unknown N/A* 7,318

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • as at 31 March 2018, there were 21,821 prison officers in England and Wales and ethnicity was known for 66.5% of them
  • 94.2% of prison officers for whom ethnicity was known were White (including White ethnic minorities)
  • 2.7% of prison officers were Black, 1.3% were Asian, 1.3% had Mixed ethnicity, and 0.6% were from the Other ethnic group
  • as at the 2011 Census, 85.6% of working age people (aged 16 to 64 years) in England and Wales were White, 8.1% were Asian, 3.4% were Black, 1.8% had Mixed ethnicity, and 1.1% were from the Other ethnic group

3. By ethnicity over time

Percentage and number of prison officers in public sector prisons from each ethnic group, over time
2015 2016 2017 2018
Ethnicity % Prison officers Number of prison officers % Prison officers Number of prison officers % Prison officers Number of prison officers % Prison officers Number of prison officers
Asian 1.2 206 1.3 206 1.3 204 1.3 182
Black 2.3 401 2.4 396 2.6 410 2.7 387
Mixed 1.2 199 1.3 213 1.3 214 1.3 190
White 94.6 16,180 94.4 15,525 94.2 14,992 94.2 13,661
Other 0.7 121 0.7 108 0.6 100 0.6 83
Unknown N/A* 1,851 N/A* 2,641 N/A* 3,254 N/A* 7,318

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • between 2015 and 2018, the percentage of prison officers from each ethnic group remained fairly stable, where ethnicity was known
  • during the same period, the percentage of prison officers from the Black ethnic group increased slightly, from 2.3% to 2.7%, and the percentage from the White ethnic group decreased slightly, from 94.6% to 94.2%
  • the percentage of prison officers who didn’t state their ethnicity increased from 9.8% in 2015 to 33.5% in 2018, largely because of low declaration rates among new recruits, and the adoption of a new platform for self-declaration

4. Methodology

Data is derived from the staff administrative system used by the National Offender Management Service (now known as Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, or HMPPS).

The numbers represent the data held at the point when extracts were taken (31 March each year).

Rounding

Percentages have been rounded to 1 decimal point.

Quality and methodology information

Further technical information

HMPPS annual staff equalities report 2017 to 2018: technical guide and glossary (PDF)

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 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.

6. Download the data

Prison officers - Spreadsheet (csv) 2 KB

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