Friday

24th Sep 2021

Belgium has most overcrowded prisons in EU

  • Sever prison overcrowding in some EU states is raising alarms during the coronavirus outbreak (Photo: Jumilla)

Severe prison overcrowding in a handful of member states is raising the stakes of a possible fresh outbreak of the coronavirus.

With 121 inmates per 100 spaces, Belgium has the most overcrowded prisons in the EU, followed by Italy (119), France (117) and Hungary (115).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Belgium also recently reported some 32 prison guards had tested positive for the virus. Four inmates also have the virus and another 53 were quarantined.

The figures, compiled in a report by the human rights watchdog Council of Europe, represents data from both 2018 and 2019.

In a statement, the Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić, said all possible measures need to be taken to protect both prison populations and prison staff.

"Prison administrations and all the relevant authorities should strive to resort to alternatives to deprivation of liberty," she said, on Tuesday (7 April).

The UK, Italy, France, Poland, and Spain also had the largest number of inmates aged 65 and over.

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has previously made similar comments.

"Authorities should examine ways to release those particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, among them older detainees and those who are sick, as well as low-risk offenders," she said in late March.

The issue has since roused political sensibilities in Spain, which has jailed nine Catalan leaders.

Spain's Supreme Court last week issued a warning to the Catalan Prison Boards not to temporarily release them during the period of Covid-19 confinement.

Diana Riba i Giner, a Spanish MEP with the Green party, is now asking the European Commission to investigate.

"The statement of the Spanish Supreme Court represents a breach of the separation of powers," she wrote in a letter addressed to EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders.

She said Catalan prisoners are entitled to regular temporary leave, for work or voluntary activity, under article 100.2 of Spain's law governing prison regulations.

Prison density in Catalonia stood at around 88 inmates per 100 available spots, compared to some 70 in the rest of Spain, according to the Council of Europe report.

When it comes to incarceration rates, notes the report, Lithuania ranks the top with 232 people jailed per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by the Czech Republic (203), Poland (190) and Slovakia (189).

The lowest incarceration rates were found in Finland (50), Netherlands (56) and Sweden at 60 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Coronavirus crisis deepens, but solidarity blooms

Despite the horrific impact of the coronavirus on the EU's economy and daily life of its citizens, solidarity is spreading across communities in all member states - with offline and online initiatives.

Greek prisons accused of abusing detainees

Prison conditions deteriorated last year, due to budget cuts and the pandemic, amid accusations of severe abuse in some EU states, says Council of Europe's anti-torture committee.

Opinion

Covid-19 in Europe's prisons - and the response

Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Sweden have taken no steps towards reducing the use of imprisonment and others, like Greece, appear to be waiting for Covid-19 to spread through prisons before acting.

Opinion

The EU's under-reported pre-trial detention problem

At any one time, there are over 100,000 people in prison waiting for a trial - one-in-five of the total EU prison population. These numbers have consistently grown over the past few years and are fuelling Europe's prison overcrowding crisis.

EU medicines agency: booster shots not urgent

The European Medicines Agency said that there is no urgent need to administer booster shots to the general population, pointing out that the priority now should be to vaccinate the one-third of Europeans who are not fully vaccinated.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed

Latest News

  1. Activists: 'More deaths' expected on Polish-Belarus border
  2. EU unveils common charger plan - forcing Apple redesign
  3. Central Europe leaders rail against 'new liberal woke virus'
  4. Yemen's refugees in 'appalling conditions', says UN agency
  5. VW emissions software was illegal, top EU lawyer says
  6. Sexism and the selection of the European Parliament president
  7. More French names linked to Russia election-monitoring
  8. Negotiations set for new, tougher, EU ethics body

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us