Significant reductions of over 10 percent were recorded in the incarceration rate in Greece (-18.8 percent), Croatia (-10 percent) and Denmark (-11 percent) between 2014 and 2015, according to the Council of Europe’s annual penal statistics (SPACE), published on Tuesday.
The SPACE report also noted an improvement in overcrowding in Greek penitentiaries, where prison density fell from 121.4 inmates to 97.6, in contrast to Moldova (with prison density rates of 96.5 in 2014 compared to 117 in 2015), Turkey (95.9 and 101.3) and the Czech Republic (93.2 and 100.4).
In 2015, 1,404,398 people were held in penitentiary institutions across Europe, which is 102,880 inmates fewer than the previous year. The incarceration rate (Prison Population Rate), which is often used as an indicator of how punitive anti-crime policies are, also fell by 7 percent from 124 inmates to 115.7 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants.
“The drop in the overall number of people in prison in Europe is welcome,” said Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland. “It shows that increasing the use of alternative sentences does not necessarily lead to higher crime rates – using more non-custodial measures can help to reintegrate offenders and cut widespread prison overcrowding, whilst still tackling crime effectively.”
According to the SPACE report, the incarceration rate grew most in Georgia (+20.5 percent), The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (+12 percent), Turkey (+11.6 percent), the Czech Republic (+11.4 percent) and Albania (+10.3 percent).
The countries with the highest incarceration rates were Russia (439.2 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants), Lithuania (277.7), Georgia (274.6), Azerbaijan (249.3), Latvia (223.4), Turkey (220.4) and Moldova (219.9).
Reductions in the incarceration rate were also seen in Northern Ireland (-9.7 percent), the Netherlands (-9.5 percent), Lithuania (-8.8 percent), Romania (-8.6 percent) and Slovenia (-8.2 percent).
The Netherlands (53) and some Nordic countries – Finland (54.8), Denmark (56.1) and Sweden (58.6) – appear to be those resorting less often to imprisonment and thus registering the lowest rates.