19 November 2019

A new report on the deaths of people following release from prison has been published this week. Written by Rebecca Roberts, head of policy at INQUEST, and Dr Jake Phillips of Sheffield Hallam University, the report shows that these deaths have risen five-fold since 2010 and self inflicted deaths increased by more than a factor of six.

In the most recent recorded year, ten people died each week following release from prison. Every two days, someone took their own life. In the same year one woman died every week, and half of these deaths were self-inflicted. 

Overall the data shows that:

  • Deaths are rising. The number of deaths that occur after leaving prison has increased much faster than the caseload, and the number of self-inflicted deaths have increased even faster still.
  • Women are at significantly greater risk. Mirroring the situation in prison, women under probation supervision appear to be at significantly greater risk of taking their own lives when compared to women in the general population.

The report highlights the lack of visibility and policy attention given to this growing problem and calls for immediate action to ensure greater scrutiny, learning and prevention. 

The research was reported in the Guardian, where INQUEST said:

“The figures are deeply disturbing and require urgent scrutiny, due to the current lack of independent investigation into these deaths.

“Without this, we cannot fully understand what is happening or how it could be addressed. What is clear however is that people are being released into failing support systems, poverty, homelessness and an absence of services for mental health and addictions. This is state abandonment.”

The report makes the following recommendations:

  1. National review: The government should proceed with its national review of deaths of people on post-release supervision in the community to establish the scale, nature and cause of the problem.
  2. Data: More detailed and accurate data should be made available along with regular reporting to the Minister responsible and Parliament alongside the publication of an annual report.
  3. Investigations: Deaths of people on post custody supervision should be investigated by an independent body with adequate resources allocated to allow this to happen. There needs to be a threshold for this with a range of factors taken into account.
  4. Improve scrutiny and learning. The Government needs to confirm oversight at a local and national level.


Further coverage:

  • Suicide rate among released prisoners is rocketing, The Week
  • Probation deaths, insidetime

Read INQUEST's report: Deaths of people following release from prison.