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Cyprus’ prison population down almost 30% but still overcrowded

Cyprus saw a near 30 per cent fall in its incarceration rate from 2020 to 2021, but still has one of Europe’s most overcrowded prisons according to the Council of Europe’s annual penal statistics (Space) for 2021, published this week.

This year’s report, which took into account data provided by 48 prison administrations, found that an overall fall in Europe’s prison populations can be attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic but is also a consolidation of a 10-year long trend across European states.

Out of the 48 prison administrations that provided data for both 2020 and 2021, the incarceration rate – the number of prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants – fell in 30 penal administrations, remained stable in 14, and only grew in three taking into account only countries with more than 300,000 inhabitants.

From 2020 to 2021, the incarceration rate fell the most in Cyprus (-28.3 per cent), Montenegro (-24.4 per cent), Slovenia (-22.1 per cent), Lithuania (-13.4 per cent), Finland (-13.2 per cent), Georgia (-12.1 per cent), France (-11.7 per cent), Armenia (-11.5 per cent), Italy (-11.1 per cent), UK (Northern Ireland) (-10.9 per cent), Portugal (-10.8 per cent) and Latvia (-10.3 per cent).

It also decreased in Iceland (-9.7 ), Switzerland (-9.2 per cent), Ireland (-8.9per cent), Turkey (-8.9 per cent), Albania (-8.7 per cent), Czech Republic (-8.4 per cent), Austria (-8.2 per cent), Poland (-8.1 per cent), UK (Scotland) (-8 per cent), the Netherlands (-7.9 per cent), Russia (-7.9 per cent), Luxembourg (-7.5 per cent), Germany (-6.9 per cent), Spain (-6-1 per cent), Denmark (-6 per cent), and Ukraine (-5.2 per cent).

Only Sweden, Romania and North Macedonia saw increases of 8.2 per cent, 6.6 per cent  and 5.4 per cent respectively.

Despite the overall prison density in Europe falling by 5.3 per cent from January 2020 to January 2021, six countries – among them Cyprus – reported prison density of more than 105 inmates per 100 places, which is an indicator of serious overcrowding.

Romania reported 119 inmates per 100 places, Greece and Cyprus 111, Belgium and Turkey 108 and Italy 106.

The countries with the highest incarceration rates on 31 January 2021 were Russia (328 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants), Turkey (325), Georgia (232), Azerbaijan (216), Slovakia (192), Lithuania (190) and the Czech Republic (180).

Not taking into account countries with less than 300,000 inhabitants, the lowest incarceration rates were found in Iceland (41), Finland (43), Bosnia and Herzegovina (50), Netherlands (54) and Slovenia (54)

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