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Prison statistics for 2015: overcrowding still a problem
11.4.17
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The Council of Europe recently published its annual prison statistics report, covering the year 2015. The organisation highlighted the fact that from 2014 to 2015 the number of prisoners in Europe fell by 6.8%, but prison overcrowding remains a problem in 15 countries.

Council of Europe: Europe’s prison population falls, but there is no progress in tackling overcrowding, says annual Council of Europe survey (press release, pdf):

"The number of people held in European prisons decreased by 6.8% from 2014 to 2015, although prison overcrowding remained a problem in 15 countries, according to the latest Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics (SPACE), published today...

In 2015, 1,404,398 people were held in penitentiary institutions across Europe, which is 102,880 inmates fewer than the previous year1. The incarceration rate (Prison Population Rate), which is often used as an indicator of how punitive anti-crime policies are, also fell by 7% from 124 inmates to 115.7 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants2.

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland said: ““The drop in the overall number of people in prison in Europe is welcome. Increasing the use of alternative sentences does not necessarily lead to higher crime rates but can help to reintegrate offenders and tackle overcrowding.”

Significant reductions in the incarceration rate were recorded in Greece (-18.8%), Croatia (-10.2%), Denmark (-11.9%), Northern Ireland (-9.7%), the Netherlands (-9.5%), Lithuania (-8.8%), Romania (- 8.6%) and Slovenia (-8.2%). On the other hand, the incarceration rate grew most in Georgia (+20.5%), “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (+12%), Turkey (+11.6%), the Czech Republic (+11.4%) and Albania (+10.3%).

The countries with the highest incarceration rates were Russia (439.2 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants), Lithuania (277.7), Georgia (274.6), Azerbaijan (249.3), Latvia (223.4), Turkey (220.4) and the Republic of Moldova (219.9)."

See the reports: Council of Europe: Annual Penal Statistics:

Press coverage

England and Wales have highest imprisonment rate in western Europe (The Guardian, link):

"England and Wales have the highest rate of imprisonment in western Europe, according to the Council of Europe’s annual penal statistics.

The prison population in England and Wales has stabilised at nearly 86,000 in recent years but the incarceration rate, at 148.3 prisoners per 100,000 population, remains higher than in Spain (137.9), France (98.3), Italy (86.4) and Germany (77.4).

The Council of Europe figures, published on Tuesday, show the age of criminal responsibility remains lower in England and Wales and Northern Ireland, at 10 years, than anywhere else in Europe except for Switzerland, where it is also 10."

€2.8k a day to detain youths in Ireland (Irish Examiner, link):

"It costs almost €2,800 per day to detain a juvenile offender in Ireland — almost 10 times as much as the European average — according to a Council of Europe report."

Portugal’s prisons among fullest in EU (The Portugal News, link):

"A new Council of Europe study published this week – the Annual Penal Statistics, or SPACE report – which portrays the situation of prisons in 40 countries, shows that in 2015, Portugal had 113 inmates per every 100 places available.

That figure is on a par with France, and only lower than in Macedonia, Hungary, Belgium, Spain, Albania and Moldova."

Cyprus was first in Europe for prison suicides (Cyprus Mail, link):

"Cyprus ranked first among European countries for suicide rates in prison, the Council of Europe’s latest annual penal statistics (Space), released on Tuesday, said.

The report also revealed that each convict in Cyprus costs the state €75 per day.

According to the report, which gathered data from around 50 European countries, the highest suicide rates per 10,000 prisoners in 2015 were recorded in Cyprus, a whopping 44.1, more than double that of the second country on the list, Norway, which recorded 16.1 suicides per 10,000 prisoners. The Europe-wide average is 7.2."

Greece making progress in prison overcrowding, Council of Europe reports (Ekathimerini, link):

"Significant reductions of over 10 percent were recorded in the incarceration rate in Greece (-18.8 percent), Croatia (-10 percent) and Denmark (-11 percent) between 2014 and 2015, according to the Council of Europe’s annual penal statistics (SPACE), published on Tuesday.

The SPACE report also noted an improvement in overcrowding in Greek penitentiaries, where prison density fell from 121.4 inmates to 97.6, in contrast to Moldova (with prison density rates of 96.5 in 2014 compared to 117 in 2015), Turkey (95.9 and 101.3) and the Czech Republic (93.2 and 100.4)."

Further reading

Prison capital: UK locks up more people than any other EU member state (Statewatch News Online, March 2016)

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