New data shows 2021 had highest number of deaths in prison ever

Domiciliary Prisonsource: INQUEST
published: 27 January 2022

The Ministry of Justice has today (27 January 2022) released the latest statistics on deaths and self-harm in prison in England and Wales. This time last year INQUEST predicted that, in the midst of a second wave of Covid-19, the worst was yet to come. Sadly, the government did not act and we were proven right.

In the 12 months to December 2021 there were a total of 371 deaths of people in prison, representing the highest annual number of deaths ever recorded, with more than one death a day. This is despite recent reductions in the prison population. There were 4.7 deaths per 1,000 prisoners, also representing the highest ever rate of deaths.

Of these deaths:  

  • 250 deaths were classed as ‘natural causes’, though INQUEST casework and monitoring shows many of these deaths are premature and far from ‘natural’. This is a 13% increase from the previous 12 months. 
  • 86 deaths were self-inflicted, an increase of 28% from the previous 12 months.  
  • 34 deaths were recorded as ‘other’, of which 4 were ‘non-natural’ and 30 await classification.  
  • There was also one homicide. 

Of these, six of the deaths were in women’s prisons, three of which were ‘natural cause’ and three await classification. Younger people were most likely to die self-inflicted deaths in prison, and 69% of all deaths of people aged between 18 and 39 were self-inflicted deaths in 2021. 

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