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Europe’s prison over-crowding crisis

Imprisonment rates in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Latvia, the Russian Federation and Ukraine are among the highest in Europe, double the Council of Europe’s average, according to a new survey.

The Parliamentary Assembly’s legal affairs committe also reveals that 21 of the organisations member states have “serious problems of prison overcrowding.”

The research shows that the number of prisoners held in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Latvia, the Russian Federation and Ukraine is double the Council of Europe average of 149 prisoners per 100 000 inhabitants. Prison over-crowding is also worrying in Serbia (at 172 prisoners per 100 places), Italy (at 153), Cyprus (at 151), Greece (at 123), Turkey (at 115) and France (at 108).

The survey also reveals that Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, San Marino, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland have imprisonment rates around half the European average or less.

A report to the committee confirms that “the cost of imprisonment to European tax payers is considerable. The average among Council of Europe member states is the equivalent of nearly € 100 per inmate a day.”

In its draft resolution adopted on 19 March, the committee says that prison overcrowding is “unacceptable and is liable to result in higher rates of reoffending.”

It calls on governments to devote “scarce budgetary funds” to “improving detention conditions in existing prisons rather than expanding prison capacity.” It also urges authorities to “promote the use of non-custodial sentences, especially for first-time and non-violent offenders, young offenders and women.”

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