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prison 2461000+ facts about the prison system

From a report by Prison Reform Trust

This week is Prisons' Week and I thought I would dig into facts about our prison system.

Prison Reform Trust produced a fact file about prisons in England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in autumn 2015. It contains a huge number of insights and would inform prayer and other initiatives. An updated shorter version was produced in summer 2016.

It is difficult to know what facts to pick out. For this article, I will focus on the social characteristics of adult prisoners (in this case in England and Wales) as this gives an insight as to both prevention and restoration initiatives that a church may want to explore.


Characteristic Prison population General population
Taken into care as a child 24%
(31% for women, 24% for men)
Experienced abuse as a child 29%
(53% for women, 27% for men)
Observed violence in the home as a child 41%
(50% for women, 40% for men)
Regularly truant from school  59% 5.2% (England) and 4.8% (Wales)
Expelled or permanently excluded from school 42%
(32% for women, 43% for men)
In 2005 >1% of school pupils were permanently excluded (England)
No qualifications 47% 15% of working age population
Unemployed in the four weeks before custody 68%
(81% for women, 67% for men)
7.7% of the economically active population are unemployed
Never had a job 13%   3.9%
Homeless before entering custody 15% 4% have been homeless or in
temporary accommodation
Have children under the age of 18  54% Approximately 27% of the over 18 population
Are young fathers (aged 18–20) 19% 4%
Have symptoms indicative of psychosis 16%
(25% for women, 15% for men)
Identified as suffering from
both anxiety and depression
(49% for women, 23% for men)
Have attempted suicide at
some point 
46% for women, 21% for men 6%
Have ever used Class A drugs 64% 13%
Drank alcohol every day in the
four weeks before custody
22% 16% of men and 10% of women reported drinking on a daily basis

The above statistics reinforce the effect of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). The stress of severe and chronic childhood trauma releases toxic stress hormones that physically damage a child’s developing brain. Children with toxic stress live much of their lives in fight, flight or fright (freeze) mode. They respond to the world as a place of constant danger. With their brains overloaded with stress hormones and unable to function appropriately, they can’t focus on learning. They fall behind in school or fail to develop healthy relationships with peers or create problems with teachers and principals because they are unable to trust adults. Some kids do all three. With despair, guilt and frustration pecking away at their psyches, they often find solace in food, alcohol, tobacco, methamphetamine, inappropriate sex, high-risk sports, and/or work and over-achievement.

Thinking about prevention, our work with the community, parents and children is fundamental, especially helping them to be trauma-informed. Options for these are covered in the following articles:

How a community becomes trauma-informed
11 resources for parenting - families and early years
6 resources to help relationships - families and early years
6 resources to help with education

What about restoration?

There are a number of initiatives churches are involved in, These mostly cover addiction, homelessness and life skills e.g. literacy.

Some of the organisations that can help equip are:
Clean Sheet
Hope into Action
CAP Job Clubs
Living Recovery

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From a report by The Prison Reform Trust, 11/10/2016

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