The economic crisis hampers improvement of conditions in European prisons

The Wretched of the Earth

via Council of Europe

Spending per inmate in European prisons has decreased during the economic crisis, and this has likely caused a negative impact on the quality of life of persons in custody. The crisis has not had a significant effect on the number of individuals in custody, although there has been a minor reduction in prison overcrowding. These are some of the conclusions that can be drawn from the 2013 Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics (SPACE I and SPACE II surveys), which were published today.

In 2012, European prison administrations spent an average of €97 per inmate per day, €2 higher than in 2011, although the amounts spent varied greatly. However, taking into account the period from 2007 – when the economic crisis started – to 2012, there was a decrease in expenses per inmate (from an average of €99.1 to €96.7 per person, and a median of €53.4 to €41.6 per person). There were increases in very few countries. In 2012, the 45 prison administrations that provided this data for the survey spent more than €26 billion.

On the other hand, the average prison population rate – which indicates the number of individuals in custody per 100,000 inhabitants – increased by 2.7% between 2007 and 2012. This, however, also varied greatly across countries, many of them experiencing significant increases or reductions.

In 2013, overcrowding remained acute in 21 out of 50 European prison administrations, the same proportion as the year before. However, there had been some improvement: in 2013 prisons were holding 96 inmates per 100 places, versus 98 in 2012, and 99.5 in 2011. Italy (which significantly reduced its prison population in 2014), Hungary, Cyprus, Belgium, “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Portugal, France, Romania, Croatia and Albania suffered the most serious overcrowding.

The proportion of individuals serving sentences of less than one year was relatively high, although it decreased from 15% in 2012 to 13% in 2013. In applying Council of Europe recommendations, these sentences could often be replaced with alternative measures to imprisonment in order to help to reduce prison overcrowding and contribute to the reintegration of offenders into society. The most common length of custodial sentence continued to be 1 to 3 years (23% of inmates), whereas sentences beyond 10 years slightly grew from 10.2% of inmates in 2012 to 11% in 2013. (more…)

see: Penal statustics (pdf) and Executive Summary (pdf)