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Cyprus was first in Europe for prison suicides

Cyprus ranked first among European countries for suicide rates in prison, the Council of Europe’s latest annual penal statistics (Space), released on Tuesday, said.

The report also revealed that each convict in Cyprus costs the state €75 per day.

According to the report, which gathered data from around 50 European countries, the highest suicide rates per 10,000 prisoners in 2015 were recorded in Cyprus, a whopping 44.1, more than double that of the second country on the list, Norway, which recorded 16.1 suicides per 10,000 prisoners. The Europe-wide average is 7.2.

Space provides data on imprisonment and penal institutions in Council of Europe member-states, and information on non-custodial sanctions and measures.

According to the 2014 and 2015 statistics, Cyprus with 44.1 is also among countries where high mortality rates per 10,000 inmates were recorded. The Europe-wide average is 31.6 per 10,000 inmates. Latvia tops the list with 58. 2.

The mortality and suicide rate is the same in Cyprus since the cause of death of the three prisoners who died in 2014, when the data was taken, was suicide.

“The mortality rate for the study corresponds to the number of detainees who died per 10,000 inmates in 2014, in such a way that, as there were 681 inmates in 2014 in Cyprus and three deaths so the mortality rate is indeed 44.1 per 10,000 inmates,” a CoE spokesman said.

A number of reforms and changes at the Nicosia central prisons over the past two years has however improved the situation, the justice ministry says. There has been “only one real suicide attempt” at the prison in the past two years, prisons chief Anna Aristotelous told the Cyprus Mail in a recent interview.

Cyprus is also among the countries with higher rates than the European average of one in five as to the number of persons convicted for drug-related offences. At 27.5 per cent, Cyprus is last in the top five. Top of the list is Italy with 31.1 per cent followed by Georgia, Azerbaijan and Estonia.

The most common offences among member-states for which sentenced prisoners are held in custody in 2015 are drug offences – 18.7 per cent – and theft – 16.2 per cent. Sentenced prisoners for homicide represent 13.2 per cent of all sentenced inmates, the survey said.

Cyprus too follows that pattern with the most common offences for which prisoners are held being drugs and theft. Inmates sentenced for homicide in Cyprus amount to 11.4 per cent of the prison population, which is slightly lower than the European average.

It also ranks tenth among countries with the highest percentage of foreign inmates in their total prison population, as almost four inmates in ten are foreign nationals. The average is 22.6 per cent.

The median age of the more than 650 prisoners held in Cyprus is 36, a year older than the European median, while 6 per cent of inmates in Cyprus are women, which is slightly higher than the median of all CoE member states.

The Cypriot state is spending on average €75 per day per inmate, the study said, which is lower than the European average of €101. According to the study, the range of daily amounts spent in 2014 spans from almost €6 per day in Georgia to more than €480 in San Marino. “The total amount spent by the prison administrations in the 44 countries that provided this kind of information was €21 billion,” the survey said.

According to the survey, on average, there are three inmates per each custodian. In Cyprus however, the number of inmates per custodian is 1.7

Despite the fact that Cyprus is faced with a serious overcrowding problem, it is not among the countries with the most overcrowded penal institutions, which are former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Spain, Hungary, Belgium, Albania, Moldova, France and Portugal. The survey said that 33 per cent of European prisons experienced overcrowding in 2015.

It added that countries with more than 110 inmates per 100 places were considered as being the most overcrowded. Cyprus, according to study has 97.3 inmates per 100 places, slightly higher than the European prisons’ average which is 93.7 inmates for every 100 available spaces.

In 2015, the survey said, more than 1.40 million people were held in penitentiary institutions across Europe.

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