In this country we do not give a death sentence, but for everyone who has taken their life in prison that is exactly what they got

 - Mark Saunders, whose son Dean died in HMP Chelmsford in 2016

Below is a breakdown of deaths in prison in England and Wales by calendar year (January-December) since 2012. These figures do not include deaths in immigration removal centres (IRCs) and immigration detention centres, but do include deaths of people held in prisons as immigration detainees and those being transported by or in the custody of prisoner escort services.

See also: Deaths in women’s prisons

INQUEST also monitors the deaths of children and young people and black and minority ethnic people in prison. We are currently in the process of reviewing and updating our statistics on these pages. If you require this or any other information unavailable in our Statistics and monitoring resources, please get in touch with us. As a small team, we are unable to respond to all requests, and detailed information requests may take one to two weeks to gather. If your request is urgent, please mark it as such and give a brief explanation as to why. For any media requests, please get in touch via our media enquiry form.

For further information and resources visit our campaign pages:

Prisons        Women's prisons        Now or never! Legal aid for inquests

The latest statistics released by the Ministry of Justice in January 2020 show that every four days a person takes their life in prison. The Ministry of Justice report that in the 12 months to September 2019, self-harm incidents reached a new record high of 61,461 incidents, up 16% from the previous 12 months. This is more than double the number of self-harm incidents than in the same period in 2014 (24,748).

In January 2020, INQUEST published a report on the deaths of people in prison. 

The evidence presented in Deaths in prison: a national scandal, is gathered from our casework and monitoring of inquests, providing a unique insight into the harms and dangers of imprisonment.

Containing case studies and original analysis of jury findings and coroners’ reports, it reveals the repeated and systemic failings documented at inquests across a two-year period.


Total deaths in prison custody by apparent cause, England and Wales 2012-2022
Year Self-inflicted Non-self-inflicted Awaiting classification Total
2022 27 86 21 134*
2021 85 256 30 371*
2020 67 249** 3 319*
2019 86 207** 8 301
2018 93 229 5 327
2017 73 219 0 292
2016 122 230 2 354
2015 89 167 0 256
2014 89 153 0 242
2013 76 139 0 215
2012 61 131 0 192
Totals  868 2067 69 3004

* Figures for 2020 up to the current calendar year may be incomplete as they are based on INQUEST's casework and monitoring. The data for previous calendar years are derived from official sources. For data going back to 1978, visit the Ministry of Justice website (see Table: Deaths in prison custody 1978-2019).

** In September 2019, a newborn baby died in HMP Bronzefield; another baby was stillborn in HMP Styal in June 2020. The Ministry of Justice does not routinely collect or publish data on miscarriages, stillbirths and neo-natal deaths so the number of deaths of babies born to imprisoned mothers may be higher.

Source: INQUEST casework and monitoring

Figures last updated 30 June 2022.