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 2009. 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 information please get in touch with us.

For further information and resources visit our campaign pages:

Deaths in prison 2009-2018

The latest statistics released by the Ministry of Justice in October 2019 show that there are four self-inflicted deaths in prison every week, which continues the historically high levels of self-inflicted deaths as seen over the past six years. They also show record high levels of self-harm, up 22% to 60,594 in the 12 months to June 2019.

These statistics are more than numbers. They represent real people in extreme distress, leading to preventable deaths and traumatic bereavement for families. As a society we should not accept this endless cycle of systemic neglect and political indifference. Bereaved families deserve more than repetitive platitudes that ‘lessons will be learned’, when they consistently are not. The lack of accountability for these deaths, and the abject failure of the system to prevent them, is a moral and political disgrace". 

Deborah Coles, Executive Director of INQUEST

Read more about INQUEST's latest response to the 'Safety in Custody' statistics. 

Total deaths in prison custody by apparent cause, England and Wales 2009-2020
Year Self-inflicted Non self-inflicted Awaiting classification Total
2020 3 3 0 6*
2019 82 159** 59 300*
2018 92 195 38 325
2017 71 213 9 293
2016 124 227 3 354
2015 89 167 0 256
2014 89 153 0 242
2013 76 139 0 215
2012 61 131 0 192
2011 58 134 0 192
2010 58 140 0 198
2009 61 108 0 169
  864 1769 109 2742

* Figures for the current calendar year (and presently for 2019) 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 1978-2008).

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

Source: INQUEST casework and monitoring

Figures last updated 16 January 2020.