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Written Question
Prisoners' Release: Coronavirus
Tuesday 19th May 2020

Asked by: Lord Patel of Bradford (Non-affiliated - Life peer)

Question to the Ministry of Justice:

To ask Her Majesty's Government, following their decision to release low-risk prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic, how many such prisoners have been released so far; and, what steps they are taking (1) to widen the criteria to include more prisoners convicted of non-violent and petty crimes, (2) to consider temporary release alongside early release, (3) to suspend the imposition of sentences under six months, and (4) to consider the release of elderly prisoners who do not pose a serious risk to the public.

Answered by Lord Keen of Elie

As of 11 May, 78 prisoners have been released early; 52 were released as part of the End of Custody Temporary Release (ECTR) scheme, and 26 were released on compassionate grounds.

The ECTR scheme is aimed at low-risk offenders approaching the end of their sentence and therefore will include prisoners convicted of some, but not all, non-violent and petty crimes. The eligible offences have been chosen to strike the right balance between protecting the public and reducing transmission in prisons.

Releases are just one part of a wider strategy to create headroom, including by increasing the capacity of the existing prison estate. Modelling suggests that the headroom reduction required to implement compartmentalisation of prisons as a control on the spread of the virus is around 5,500. We are on track to achieving this target.

We have no plans to end short term prison sentences. Sentencing is a matter for our independent courts, taking into account the circumstances of each case and following any relevant sentencing guidelines issued by the Sentencing Council. A custodial sentence should always be a last resort.

Elderly and acutely medically vulnerable prisoners who have been thoroughly risk-assessed are in scope for early release on compassionate grounds.

Written Question
Prisoners: Self-harm and Suicide
Monday 24th February 2020

Asked by: Lord Patel of Bradford (Non-affiliated - Life peer)

Question to the Ministry of Justice:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many people in adult prisons in England and Wales were involved in (1) self-harm incidents, and (2) self-inflicted deaths, in 2019; and how many of those had a mental health problem.

Answered by Lord Keen of Elie

The Government publishes quarterly statistics on self-harm in prison - the latest version provides figures up to September 2019. We also publish annual death in custody statistics, all of which are available at

There were 84 self-inflicted deaths in custody between Jan to Dec 2019, of which all 84 were in adult prisons.

There were 10,651 individuals self-harming in custody between Jan to Sept 2019, of which 10,421 were in adult prisons.

The Ministry of Justice cannot provide the information on how many of these individuals had a mental health problem as we do not hold clinical data.

Written Question
Friday 29th March 2019

Asked by: Lord Patel of Bradford (Non-affiliated - Life peer)

Question to the Ministry of Justice:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the average length of stay for a prisoner in each prison in England and Wales, for each of the last five years.

Answered by Lord Keen of Elie

We do not routinely measure the average length of stay of offenders in prison as to do so would mean examining a range of data including some offenders’ individual records. Therefore, to answer this question could only be done at disproportionate cost.

We do, however, prepare and publish the mean and median average time served by released prisoners in England & Wales according to sentence length. Some of this data can be found in the table below, a further breakdown is available in the attached tables.

Table - Mean and Median time served in prison by prisoners released from determinate sentences by sentence length and sex

Mean time (months) served by prison sentence (male and female prisoners)

Median time (months) served by prisons sentence (male and female prisoners)







2015R 2





Not available



Not available

Data revisions

(R) Existing data processing of average time served figures artificially rounded down to the nearest whole number of months. The revised figures presented here are based on unrounded average time served data. This change has had the effect of revising all of the previous time served figures and this has also resulted in a change in all of the 'percentage time served' figures.

(2) Due to improvements in IT systems, the 2015 prisons admissions data was taken from a different source, and, for statistical reporting purposes only, are produced using a different method.

The figures in these tables have been drawn from administrative IT systems which, as with any large scale recording system, are subject to possible errors with data entry and processing.

Written Question
Offenders: Suicide
Thursday 8th November 2018

Asked by: Lord Patel of Bradford (Non-affiliated - Life peer)

Question to the Ministry of Justice:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of suicide rates among offenders on licence and in prisons; what assessment they have made of whether the number of offenders in the prison system contributes to those suicide rates; and whether they have plans to reduce the number of offenders in the prison system.

Answered by Lord Keen of Elie

The Government publishes data on the number of deaths among offenders being supervised in the community, and on the number and rates of deaths in prisons. The most recent statistics were released on 25 October 2018. In the year to March 2018, among offenders under post-release supervision there were 1.4 self-inflicted deaths per 1,000 offenders, down from 1.7 per 1,000 in the previous year. This rate is calculated against a snapshot of the number of offenders under supervision on 31 March, not against the total number who had been supervised during the year. The rate of self-inflicted deaths in prison in the year to September 2018 was 1.0 per 1,000 prisoners: up from 0.9 per 1,000 in the previous 12 months, but below the rate in each of the three years before that. The Government takes very seriously its responsibility to keep staff and prisoners safe, and we are committed to reducing the incidence of self-harm and suicide across the estate. This is why we have established a prison safety programme through which we are taking forward a comprehensive set of actions to improve safety in custody. They include:

  • investing in over 3,000 additional staff in order to deliver consistent, purposeful regimes;
  • introducing the new key worker role, under which staff can give prisoners more effective support;
  • rolling out revised and improved training for staff in assessing and managing the risk of suicide and self-harm amongst prisoners (this has already reached more than 17,000 staff);
  • improving support for prisoners in their early days in custody;
  • revising the ACCT case management process for those identified as being at risk; and
  • renewing our partnership with the Samaritans by confirming a further three years' grant funding for their valuable Listeners Scheme.
We want to see prison numbers come down, but not by setting an arbitrary figure for reduction. Custody should achieve justice, by holding offenders whose crime is so serious that no other penalty will do, or who would pose a danger to the public if released. It must also rehabilitate those prisoners, because society is entitled to expect them to make a fresh start when they get out. We are determined to do better by offenders who are sent to prison, to make them less likely to return. There is persuasive evidence that short custodial sentences do not achieve that, and that community sentences can be more effective at reducing re-offending. We will therefore look at what more we can do to emphasise that short custodial sentences should be viewed as a last resort.

Written Question
Offenders: Health
Wednesday 21st December 2016

Asked by: Lord Patel of Bradford (Non-affiliated - Life peer)

Question to the Ministry of Justice:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether Community Rehabilitation Companies are required to collect data on mental health, physical health or substance misuse; and if so, whether that data will be published, when, and in what format.

Answered by Lord Henley

Community Rehabilitation Companies gather information on an individual offenders’ mental health, health and substance misuse as part of establishing their rehabilitation and resettlement needs and risk assessment. This information is not collated by the Ministry of Justice centrally. We are carrying out a comprehensive review of the probation service to improve outcomes for offenders and communities and will publish the outcome of this in due course.

Written Question
Prisoners: Suicide
Thursday 15th January 2015

Asked by: Lord Patel of Bradford (Non-affiliated - Life peer)

Question to the Ministry of Justice:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many people committed suicide in prison in England in 2014; and of those (1) how many received mental health assessments prior to their deaths, and (2) how many were diagnosed with a mental health illness.

Answered by Lord Faulks

The number of self-inflicted deaths in prison custody in 2014 is due to be released on the 29th January 2015 at

The most recent Safety in Custody statistics bulletin covers deaths in prison custody up to the end of September 2014. In the first 9 months of 2014 there had been 58 self-inflicted deaths in prison custody in England. As it can be difficult to determine a person’s intent to take their own life, the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) classifies any death where a person has apparently taken their own life, irrespective of intent, as a self-inflicted death.

Information on mental health assessments and diagnoses are not collected centrally.

Prisoners receive a detailed medical examination on reception and those identified as having mental health needs are referred for a further mental health assessment. The reception healthcare screen also includes an assessment of the risk of self harm or suicide. Prisoners identified as being at risk of self harm or suicide (on reception, or at any point during their time in custody) are subject to Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT), a flexible, prisoner-centred care planning process. The ACCT process includes a detailed psychosocial assessment by a trained assessor within 24 hours, and this is followed immediately by the first multi-disciplinary case review, at which a decision is reached about whether or not a further mental health assessment is necessary.

We are applying strenuous efforts to learn from each death and are providing further resources and support to prisons to help support their safer custody work. Reducing the number of self-inflicted deaths in prisons is a top priority, and our dedicated resources are providing support to many vulnerable prisoners every single day.