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Overcrowded prisons in Europe:
only Turkey worse than Italy

EnglishItalianPortugueseSpanishGermanDutchFilipinoPolishChinese (Simplified)ArabicBengaliGreekTurkishKoreanJapanesePersianRomanian Overcrowded prisons: in Europe, only Turkey – which has the highest incarceration rate in the Old Continent – is worse than Italy. This is what emerges from the Space I report, prepared by the University of Lausanne and fresh from publication by the Council of Europe (here the complete report:  Space I – 2020).

According to the annual criminal statistics for 2020, relating to the population of prison administrations in Europe (excluding those of Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which did not make data available for the report), the number of inmates per 100,000 population continued to decrease: as at 31 January 2020, there were 1,528,343 people detained, for a European incarceration rate of 103.2 prisoners per one million inhabitants (-1.7% compared to 2019: since 2013 the overall decrease was 20%). A decrease due, according to Marcelo Aebi (coordinator of the team of researchers at the University of Lausanne) to the “decrease in the number of traditional crimes” and the simultaneous increase in cybercrime for which it is more difficult to trace the perpetrators and punish them.

As for the type of crime, 17.7% of the prison population is serving drug-related sentences (almost 260,000 prisoners); the other most frequent crimes are theft (199,000 inmates, equal to 13%), murder and attempted murder (169,000 inmates, equal to 12%), sexual crimes (81,188 inmates, 8%); only 3% serve sentences for traffic violations. There are also 30,524 prisoners convicted of terrorism: in Turkey (29,827), France (292) and Spain (209).

According to the report, the countries with the highest incarceration rates as of January 2020 are Turkey (357 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants), Russia (356), Georgia (264), Lithuania (220), Azerbaijan (209), Czech Republic (197). ), Poland (195), Slovak Republic (193) and Estonia (184), those with the lowest Iceland (45), Finland (50), the Netherlands (59) and Norway (59).

Russia is the European country with the highest number of prisoners (519,618), while Italy is in 7th place with 60,971 prisoners: many, in reality, for the country (in proportion) so much so that in terms of density only Turkish prisons surpass Italian ones. If in fact the most overcrowded in Europe (in the graphic above, from the report Space I) are those of Turkey (127 prisoners per 100 places), in second place there is Italy (120), followed by Belgium (117), Cyprus (116), France (116) , Hungary (113), Romania (113), Greece (109), Slovenia (109) and Serbia (107).

According to Professor Aebi, with reference to the Italian data, there could be two ways to solve the problem of overcrowding: the first is “to reduce the length of sentences”, the second is “to build more prisons”. Also because, Aebi underlines, “amnesties, like that of 2006, do not solve the problem”.

Here the summarized document of the report : Key Findings of the Space I report

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