Overcrowding has been slowly declining in European prisons since 2011, although it remains a problem in one in four prison administrations, according to the 2014 Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics (SPACE), published on 8 March 2016.
The ratio of prisoners fell from 99 inmates for every 100 places in 2011 to 96 inmates per 100 places in 2013, and then to 94 in 2014. The prison population rate also decreased by 7% in 2014 with regard to the previous year, from 134 to 124 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants. European prisons remained however close to the top of their capacity, holding 1,600,324 people.
The number of prison administrations suffering from overcrowding decreased significantly (down to 13 in 2014 from 21 in 2013). The countries with the most crowded penal institutions were Hungary, Belgium, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Albania, Italy, Spain (state administration), Slovenia, France, Portugal, Serbia, Romania and Austria.
Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland said: “Overcrowding creates enormous obstacles to rehabilitating offenders and thus to better protecting society from crime. It can also breach human rights. I welcome the progress achieved in reducing prison overcrowding. States still affected should do more to eradicate it, including applying alternative measures to imprisonment”.
- Press release
- 2014 Annual Penal Statistics (SPACE)
- Website "Prisons and Community Sanctions and Measures"