Prisons are at breaking point, with half of the Council of Europe area suffering from over-crowding, according to a new report.
The 2011 Council of Europe Penal Statistics (SPACE I) survey published today shows that overcrowding remains a major concern despite a 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.
Inmates 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, with female prisoners some 5,3% of the European prison population.
On average, 21% of the inmates were of foreign origins – 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).
In 2011, the number of people under the supervision of the probation agencies grew by 29.6% on the 2010 figure (from 1 176 852 to 1 525 544 persons). The trends in entries, exits, and stock of the probation population suggest that offenders are being placed under supervision for longer periods of time.
The research study also found that electronic monitoring exists in around 60% of the responding countries, with the ankle bracelet being the device most commonly used.
Report: Council of Europe annual penal statistics
Report: Annual penal statistics - Part II
News: Europe’s prison over-crowding crisis
Podcast: Prison, convicts and human rights protection