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New report highlights Europe’s falling prison population

Jail overcrowding remains a problem for 15 European governments, despite falling prison populations.

The number of people held in European prisons decreased by 6.8% from 2014 to 2015, according to the latest Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics (SPACE), published today.

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.”

In 2015, 1,404,398 people were held in penal institutions across Europe, some 102,880 inmates fewer than the previous year.

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 inhabitants.

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).

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