The Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics, better known as SPACE (Statistiques Pénales Annuelles du Conseil de l’Europe) consist in two related projects. SPACE I provides data on imprisonment and penal institutions annually since 1983. SPACE II collects data on non-custodial sanctions and measures since 1992 (annually since 2009).

These statistics are provided by a network of national correspondents working at the prison and probation services of the 47 Council of Europe member States. They are currently verified, processed and analysed by a team of researchers at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. SPACE is a world-wide known project which is a valuable source of comparative information and data used by international organisations, national authorities, policy makers, practitioners and experts working in the penal field.

Strasbourg 20 March 2018
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© Shutterstock

© Shutterstock

European prisons are almost full, according to latest Council of Europe survey

European prisons are on average close to full capacity, with inmates occupying over 9 out of ten available places, according to the Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics (SPACE) for 2016, published today.

The survey shows that the incarceration rate grew from 115.7 to 117.1 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants from 2015 to 2016. This rate had previously fallen every year since 2012, when it reached 125.6 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants.

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.

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%). The prison administrations where it fell the most were Iceland (-15.9%), Northern Ireland (-11.8), Lithuania (-11.1%), Belgium (-10.1%) and Georgia (-6.7%).

On the other hand, overcrowding remained 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 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.