Press release - DC061(2013)

Overcrowding is a problem in half of the European prison administrations, concludes a Council of Europe report

Strasbourg, 03.05.2013 Overcrowding is a problem in half of the European penitentiary administrations, according to the 2011 Council of Europe Penal Statistics (SPACE I) survey published today. On average, in September 2011, European prisons were at the top of their capacity, holding 99.5 inmates per 100 places.

The SPACE survey, which is published annually and is conducted for the Council of Europe by the Criminology and Criminal Law Institute of the University of Lausanne, provides an overview on the populations detained in the penal institutions across Europe ( SPACE I ), and of persons placed under the supervision of probation agencies ( SPACE II) .

Overcrowding remains a major concern despite a slight 2% decrease in the total prison population in the course of 2011: in September 2011 there were 1,825,356 inmates held in penal institutions across Europe versus 1,861,246 in 2010. In contrast, the average European prison population rate grew from 149 to 154 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants during 2011, because increases and decreases in the prison population are not distributed evenly across countries. Thus, the number of prison administrations which have to find measures to combat overcrowding remains high.

Persons serving a final sentence in September 2011 had been sanctioned mainly for drug offences (17.5%), theft (17.5%), robbery (12%), and homicide (12%). The average length of imprisonment during the year 2010 was 9 months, and the average duration of pre-trial detention was 5 months.

The average age of the European prison population was 33 years, female inmates representing 5,3% of the total prison population. On average, 21% of the inmates were foreigners, yet there were very big differences between countries: In Eastern European countries foreigners seldom account for more than 2% of prison population, whilst in Western European countries they usually represent more than 30%.

About 21% of the inmates were held in pre-trial detention, and 27% were waiting for a final sentence. On average, 26% of all sentenced prisoners were serving sentences of less than one year, another 26% were serving sentences of one to three years, and 48% were serving longer sentences. 14% of all sentenced inmates were serving sentences of more than 10 years.

Average mortality was 28 deaths per 10,000 inmates, with suicide representing 24% of all deaths.

The average amount of money spent per day and per inmate in 2010 was 93 Euros, although there were huge differences across countries (from 3 to 750 Euros).

The SPACE II survey provides information on the workload of 44 probation agencies of Council of Europe member states. In 2011, the number of persons under the supervision of the probation agencies grew by 29.6% with regard to 2010 (from 1 176 852 to 1 525 544 persons). The trends in entries, exits, and stock of the probation population suggest that persons are being placed under supervision for longer periods of time.

With regard to non-custodial sanctions and measures, the study finds that they are seldom used as an alternative to pre-trial detention. Roughly, only 10% of the overall probation population is placed under supervision before trial.

Electronic monitoring exists in around 60% of the responding countries, with the ankle bracelet being the device most commonly used. There is a great diversity in the ways of using electronic monitoring, ranging from home arrests, alternative to prison or as a way of serving the remainder of a prison sentence.

Press contact: Jaime Rodriguez, Tel. +33 (0)3 90 21 47 04

Council of Europe Directorate of Communications
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 41 25 60
Fax:+33 (0)3 88 41 39 11