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New European study shows rising imprisonment

Imprisonment rates are on the increase in Europe, according to the latest Council of Europe research.

The length of time spent behind bars is also on the rise,  according to Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics (SPACE) for 2016, published today.

Video: Dr Una Barr on the female imprisonment crisis

The study shows that the incarceration rate grew from 115.7 to 117.1 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants from 2015 to 2016.

The countries where the incarceration rate grew the most were Bulgaria (+10.8%), Turkey (+9.5%), the Czech Republic (+7.6%), Serbia (+6.6%) and Denmark (+5.5%).

Overcrowding remains a serious problem in many countries. Thirteen out of 47 prison administrations reported having more inmates than places to host them. The highest levels of overcrowding were observed in “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (132 prisoners per 100 places available), Hungary (132), Cyprus (127), Belgium (120), France (117), Portugal (109), Italy (109), Serbia (109), Albania (108), the Czech Republic (108), Romania (106) and Turkey (103).

The incarceration rate is mainly influenced by the length of the sanctions and measures imposed. In that perspective, the average length of detention, which can be seen as an indicator of the way criminal law is applied, increasing slightly to 8.5 months.

Imprisonment rates fell fastest in Iceland (-15.9%), Northern Ireland (-11.8), Lithuania (-11.1%), Belgium (-10.1%) and Georgia (-6.7%).

The SPACE survey is conducted for the Council of Europe by the University of Lausanne. The SPACE I 2016 survey contains information from 47 out of 52 prison administrations in the 47 Council of Europe member states (see the executive summary). The SPACE II contains information from 47 out of 52 probation agencies.

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