Background Recently released prisoners are at markedly higher risk of suicide than the general population. The aim of this study was to identify key risk factors for suicide by offenders released from prisons in England and Wales.Method All suicides committed by offenders within 12 months of their release from prison in England and Wales, between 2000 and 2002, were identified. One control matched on gender and date of release from prison was recruited for each case. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression modelling identified key independent risk factors for suicide.Results Of 256 920 released prisoners, 384 suicides occurred within a year of release. Factors significantly associated with post-release suicide were increasing age over 25 years, released from a local prison, a history of alcohol misuse or self-harm, a psychiatric diagnosis, and requiring Community Mental Health Services (CMHS) follow-up after release from prison. Non-white ethnicity and a history of previous imprisonment were protective factors.Conclusions There is a need to improve the continuity of care for people who are released from prison and for community health, offender and social care agencies to coordinate care for these vulnerable individuals. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009.