There were in all 589 000 prisoners in the EU in 2017, which is 9 per cent less than in 2012, when there were around 648,000 people in prison.
A study, conducted by the EU’s research centre Eurostat, and published recently, found that from 1993 to 2005, the number of prisoners in the EU rose by 24.3 per cent. In that same period, the population of the EU grew by just 3.1 per cent, the study found.
A net increase in the number of prisoners is mainly due to more new prison sentences than the number of releases. One of the major causes of this increase in prisoners was the rise in serious crimes across Europe.
After a temporary fall between 2005 and 2006, there was another rise in the prisoner rate. In 2011, there were 129 prisoners per 100 000 people in the EU, the highest rate during the period 1993-2017.
After an increase in serious crimes followed by more convictions with longer sentences, the number of prisoners may increase and then remain on a higher level a while after the crime rate drops, it noted.
There was one prisoner for every 865 people in the EU in 2017 – or 116 prisoners per 100,000 people. This was the lowest rate since the turn of the century, Eurostat noted.
The highest number of prisoners per 100 000 people in the EU in 2017 was in Lithuania (232), followed by Czechia (209), Estonia (207), Poland (196), and Latvia (193), and the lowest in Denmark (59), Sweden (57) and Finland (56).
Between 2008 and 2017, around 5 % of adult prisoners in the EU were women. However, 19 out of 20 prisoners are men, the study found.
The share of female adult prisoners varies between EU Member States.
In 2017, the highest shares were observed in Slovenia (7.9 per cent), Latvia (7.8 per cent), Finland (7.6 per cent), Spain (7.5 per cent), Hungary and Czechia (both 7.4 per cent) and Slovakia (7.2 per cent), and the lowest in Bulgaria (3.1 per cent), France (3.5 per cent), Ireland (3.7 per cent), Croatia (3.8 per cent), Northern Ireland (UK) and Poland (both 3.9 per cent).
Over half a million people imprisoned in EU in 2017