National Deaths in Custody Program

National Deaths in Custody Program

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Deaths in Custody in Australia

There were 149 deaths in custody in 2013–15.

115 deaths occurred in prison custody

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Prison custody: 115

34 deaths occurred in police custody

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Police custody: 34

Profile of prison and police custody deaths

The majority of prisoners who died in prison and police custody were male, over 40 years of age and non-Indigenous.

Prison custody

97% Male
79% 40+
78% Non-Indigenous

Police custody

88% Male
56% 40+
81% Non-Indigenous

Prison death rates by Indigenous status

The prison death rate for Indigenous prisoners was lower than the death rate for non-Indigenous prisoners in 2013–14 and 2014–15. The prison death rate has been lower for Indigenous prisoners since 2004–05.

2013-14 2014-15



per 100 prisoners per 100 prisoners



per 100 prisoners per 100 prisoners

Type of police custody deaths

In 2013–15, 85% of deaths occurred while police were attempting to detain an individual and 15% of deaths took place in institutional settings (eg police cell).

Cause of police custody deaths

One in two police custody deaths in 2013–15 resulted from a gunshot wound (50%). Four were self-inflicted and 13 were police shootings.

Decorative icon: person

4 Self-inflicted

Decorative icon: police vest

13 Police shootings

from a gunshot wound

Seven police custody deaths in 2013–15 occurred during motor vehicle pursuits. A quarter of all police custody deaths since 1979–80 took place during a motor vehicle pursuit.

Cause of prison deaths

Seven in ten prison deaths resulted from natural causes in 2013–15, a third of these from heart disease and related cardiac conditions.

7/10Natural causes

1/3Heart disease

Natural causes Hanging External/ multiple trauma Drugs/ alcohol Other
decorative icon: sentenced


83% 10% 4% 2% 1%
decorative icon: unsentenced


39% 57% 0% 4% 0%


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