Prison officer workforce

Published

1. Main facts and figures

  • on 31 March 2019, 93.1% of prison officers in England and Wales were White, and 6.9% were from Asian, Black, Mixed and Other ethnic groups
  • for comparison, 85.6% of working age people were White, and 14.4% were from the Asian, Black, Mixed and Other ethnic groups combined (2011 Census)
  • from 2015 to 2019, the percentage of prison officers who were Black went up from 2.3% to 3.1%
  • the percentage of prison officers who were White went down from 94.6% to 93.1%
  • these figures are based on prison officers whose ethnicity was known
  • the percentage of prison officers who didn’t state their ethnicity went up from 9.8% to 30.1%, in part due to changes in data collection from new staff
Things you need to know

These figures are based on the total number of full time and part time prison officers (sometimes called a 'headcount').

Prison officers working in public sector prisons are asked to give their ethnicity when they join, but they don't have to.

The percentages shown here are based on prison officers whose ethnicity was known. In March 2019, this accounted for 69.9% of prison officers (16,408 out of 23,461). As 30.1% 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 went up from 9.8% in 2015 to 30.1% in 2019. This is mainly 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 areas close to prisons. The percentages of prison officers from different ethnic backgrounds may reflect the working age people who live in those areas. Many public sector prisons in England and Wales are 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. The data is broken down by ethnicity.

It is a ‘snapshot’ of the number of prison officers employed on 31 March 2019.

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)
  • staff on band 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 choose from a list of 5 ethnic groups: Asian, Black, Mixed, White and Other. These are based on the ethnic groups used in the 2011 Census of England and Wales.

2. By ethnicity

Percentage and number of prison officers in public sector prisons by ethnicity
Ethnicity % of prison officers Number of prison officers
Asian 1.6 262
Black 3.1 505
Mixed 1.7 276
White 93.1 15,269
Other 0.6 96
Unknown N/A* 7,053

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

Summary of Prison officer workforce By ethnicity Summary

Percentages only include prison officers whose ethnicity was known. 30.1% of prison officers didn't declare their ethnicity in 2019. This adds greater uncertainty to the percentages, particularly for smaller groups.

This data shows that:

  • on 31 March 2019, there were 23,461 prison officers in England and Wales and the ethnicity was known for 16,408 (69.9%) of them
  • 93.1% of prison officers were White (out of those whose ethnicity was known)
  • 3.1% of prison officers were Black, 1.7% had Mixed ethnicity, 1.6% were Asian, and 0.6% were from the Other ethnic group
  • by comparison, 85.6% of working age people were White, 8.1% were Asian, 3.4% were Black, 1.8% had Mixed ethnicity, and 1.1% were from the Other ethnic group (2011 Census)

3. By ethnicity over time

Percentage and number of prison officers in public sector prisons by ethnicity over time
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Ethnicity 2015 % Prison officers 2015 Number of prison officers 2016 % Prison officers 2016 Number of prison officers 2017 % Prison officers 2017 Number of prison officers 2018 % Prison officers 2018 Number of prison officers 2019 % Prison officers 2019 Number of prison officers
Asian 1.2 206 1.3 206 1.3 204 1.3 182 1.6 262
Black 2.3 401 2.4 396 2.6 410 2.7 387 3.1 505
Mixed 1.2 199 1.3 213 1.3 214 1.3 190 1.7 276
White 94.6 16,180 94.4 15,525 94.2 14,992 94.2 13,661 93.1 15,269
Other 0.7 121 0.7 108 0.6 100 0.6 83 0.6 96
Unknown N/A* 1,851 N/A* 2,641 N/A* 3,254 N/A* 7,318 N/A* 7,053

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

Summary of Prison officer workforce By ethnicity over time Summary

This data shows that, between 2015 and 2019:

  • the percentage of prison officers from each ethnic group remained fairly stable
  • the percentage of prison officers who were Black went up from 2.3% to 3.1%
  • the percentage who were White went down from 94.6% to 93.1%
  • the percentage who didn’t state their ethnicity went up from 9.8% to 30.1%, in part due to changes in the way new staff recorded their details

4. Methodology

Data comes from the staff administrative system used by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service.

The numbers were correct at the time 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 2018 to 2019: 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 officer workforce data - Spreadsheet (csv) 3 KB

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