Religion of Prisoners

Government has regularly reported on the religious affiliation of prisoners in England and Wales, and time series for recent decades, until 2008, are already available on the BRIN website at:

Data for 2009 were released during the summer in tables 7.25-7.30 of the Ministry of Justice’s Offender Management Caseload Statistics, 2009. This document can be viewed at:

According to table 7.25 (a high-level summary for each year from 1999 to 2009), the proportion of prisoners professing no religion in 2009 was 34.6%, up from 30.2% ten years previously. During this decade the overall prison population grew by 30%.

Christians accounted for 48.7% of prisoners, a big reduction from 60.9% in 1999. Unlike other Government sources, Christians were sub-divided here, with most being either Anglicans (25.9%) or Roman Catholics (17.1%). The over-representation of Catholics among prisoners has long been a source of angst to the Roman Catholic Church.

Non-Christian prisoners have almost doubled since 1999, from 8.9% to 16.6%. By far the biggest group in 2009 comprised Muslims (11.9%), about two and a half times more than their presence in society as a whole, as recorded in the Integrated Household Survey. See also our post on Muslims in prison at:

Many of the differences between the religious profile of the general and prison populations are explicable by demographics. These can be explored further in some of the other tables. There are disaggregations of religion in 2009 by gender and ethnicity in table 7.26; gender and age in 7.27; gender and custody type in 7.28; and gender and length of custodial sentence in 7.29. Social class background is not analysed.

Table 7.30 sub-divides the broad religious groupings used in table 7.25, for each year between 2002 and 2009. So, if you are interested in calculating law-breaking rates among Quakers, Mormons, Pagans, Rastafarians or whoever, here is your statistical goldmine.

British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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