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18th Aug 2019

Prison suicide rates in France highest in Europe

  • Russia has the highest total number of inmates in all of Europe (Photo: banspy)

More people are likely to kill themselves incarcerated in France than any other European country, according to a report released on Tuesday (2 April) by the human rights watchdog Council of Europe.

Figures obtained from prison survey questionnaires dispatched across 47 European countries, spanning from Russia to Portugal, show that France tops the list when it comes to prison suicides.

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However, the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe cautions any country comparisons should take into account a number of caveats.

For one, a handful of prison administrations - including those in Belgium and Hungary - did not respond to the questionnaires.

Second, it also notes that data collection methods vary across the countries.

"These variations in the data collection methods introduce artificial differences across countries," warns the report.

But of the 45 prison administrations that did respond, the report found that suicide rates per 10,000 inmates in 2017 in France stood at 12.6, followed by Austria at 12.3 and then Germany with 11.8.

At the lowest end of the spectrum with zero suicides for 2017 is Cyprus, Croatia, Greece, Luxembourg and non-EU states Iceland and Montenegro.

France also appears to be one of the worst offenders when it comes to prison density, ranking in the top three most overcrowded prison systems across most of Europe.

But France is not alone in the EU when it comes to prison overcrowding. In fact, EU states rank as among the most overcrowded prison systems in the whole of Europe.

Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Slovenia are all running prisons at overcapacity.

Those incarnated in Portugal are also more likely to have much longer sentences.

The country has the second highest average length of of imprisonment, after Azerbaijan, with some 31.1 months behind bars, followed by Romania with 24.2 months and the the Czech Republic with 24 months.

More than a quarter of all prisoners in Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Latvia and Italy were serving drug-related sentences.

Prison rates dropping

Meanwhile, the highest total number of inmates as of the end of January were the Russian Federation (602,176), the UK: England & Wales (84,373), Poland (73,822), France (69,596) and Germany (64,193).

The report also suggested some overall trends, noting that overall imprisonment rate in Europe fell by 6.6 percent between 2016 and 2018 - from 109.7 to 102.5 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants.

The drop is mainly due to a decrease in the average length of imprisonment.

Albania, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina (state level), Bosnia & Herzegovina (federal level), Hungary, Malta, and Ukraine did not participate in the prison survey.

Turkey was also not included because of disputed figures.

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