Deaths in custody: overview of trends, 1980-2006

The National Deaths in Custody Program (NDICP) is responsible for monitoring the extent and nature of deaths in police, prison and juvenile custody. Since 1980, there has been a total of 1,879 deaths in custody - 1,161 in prison custody, 701 in police custody (and custody-related operations) and 17 in juvenile custody (Joudo & Curnow 2008). As prison deaths account for most deaths in custody, trends in prison deaths will be reflected in overall deaths. Between 1980 and 2006, three trends have emerged in the total number of deaths in custody recorded each year. From 1980 to 1986, the trend remained relatively stable with small fluctuations. This was followed by a steady increase from 1989 to 1997. The third trend, evident from 1997 onwards, indicated a decline in the number of deaths in custody. These trends reflect the statistically significant changes over time in prison custody deaths. However, no statistically significant changes occurred in police custody and custody-related operations deaths during this period. Juvenile deaths have remained at zero, one or two per year since data collection began in 1980.

Trends in deaths in custody by custodial authority, 1980-2006 (number) [see attached PDF for graph]