European Prisons: Figures & Statistics
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The total number of prisoners is decreasing in the UK and Germany, while it is increasing in Italy and France. The UK, Germany, and France have publicly announced plans to build additional prison facilities in their respective countries.

THE UNITED KINGDOM

Prison Count

  • There are currently 117 prisons in the UK. The country’s prison service, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), manages 104 prisons, while private companies operate 13.
  • The number of prisons in the country has decreased compared to the recent past. In 2009, there were 137 prisons in the country compared to the current total of 117 prisons.
  • The government plans to decrease the number of prisons in the country in the future. There have also been more prison closures than openings in the last ten years. Between 2009 and 2019, only one new prison was built against the 20 closures.
  • The UK government has also initiated the creation of additional prisons under the Prison Estate Transformation Programme (PETP). The program will see two additional prisons added to existing prisons by 2023.

Prisoner Count

  • The number of prisoners in the UK has remained steady in the past decade. In 2009, there were about 83,000 inmates in the country’s prison systems, which decreased slightly to 82,710 in 2019.
  • Scotland and Northern Ireland operate a separate prison system from the Greater UK (i.e., the Kingdoms of England and Wales). There are 15 prisons in Scotland housing 7,595 inmates. In Northern Ireland, there are 3 prisons housing 1,521 inmates.
  • The gradual decrease in the number of inmates is expected to continue well into the future. As of present, the population of older prisoners continues to grow as they age in prison, while that of younger prisoners continues to fall. The number of young prisoners has declined by 27 percent between 2011 and 2019, suggesting a potential future reduction in the country’s overall incarceration rate.

Private Prison Operators

  • There are three private prison operators in the UK. They are G4S, which manages four prisons; Sodexo, which operates four prisons; and Secro, which manages five prisons.

Prisoner Educational and Resocialization

  • Inmates’ participation in accredited programs while in custody has declined over the past decade. The number of prisoners that start and complete resocialization programs that focus on reducing domestic violence, sexual violence, and offending has declined by 36 percent between 2009 and 2018.
  • In addition, the number of inmates that start and complete accredited education programs, such as the pre-GSCE and GSCE, has declined by as much as 47 percent between 2011 and 2018.

FRANCE

Prison Count

  • There are 188 prisons in France. Total prison capacity in France has slightly increased in the last decade. In 2009, the French prison system had a total capacity of 54,900. This figure grew to 59,600 in 2017 and 61,065 in 2020.
  • In 2018, the French government announced plans to increase its prison capacity by another 15,000 in the next decade.

Prisoner Count

  • The number of prisoners in France has almost doubled in the last two decades. In 2000, there were 48,049 prisoners in the country serving time for various offenses. By 2018, this number had grown to 74,244 inmates.
  • The Director-General of Prison Administration, Stephane Bredin, stated in a recent interview that the French government plans to decrease the number of people that are imprisoned for minor offenses in the future, which will reduce its overall rate of incarceration.

Private Prison Operators

  • The French prison service engages private entities in a public-private partnership. The state retains custodial functions, while the private prison operators are only permitted to provide certain services related to the welfare of the inmates, such as catering, healthcare, and maintenance.
  • About 68 prisons out of the total 188 that exist in the country are privately managed. The following are some examples of private entities that operate in the French prison system: GEPSA, which operates non-custodial services in 13 prisons; Sodexho, which manages 34 detention centers; and Bouygues.

Prisoner Educational and Resocialization.

  • About 9.1 percent of prisoners in France return to prison for new crimes after being released.
  • About a quarter (25%) of inmates received educational training provided by the French National Education Board.

GERMANY

Prison Count

  • There are currently 179 prisons in Germany. The German prison system has not witnessed any increase in the last decade, and prison capacity has remained relatively unchanged at 75,000. Several German states have publicly announced plans to increase prison capacity in the coming decade.

Prisoner Count

  • The number of prisoners in Germany has gradually declined in the past two decades. In 2000, there were 70,252 prisoners in the German prison system. However, this figure declined to 63,643 prisoners in 2018.

Private Prison Operators

  • Germany allows private operators to run its prisons under a “semi-private” scheme — that is, private operators partner with the state to fulfill certain functions within the prison system. The German constitution places certain limits on the kind of functions that may be delegated to private services. Secro, a private entity, operates in some capacity in German prisons.

Prisoner Educational and Resocialization

  • The German prison system is regarded as one of the most progressive in the world. According to a German prison director, the focus is on “reintegrating” the inmates back into society and not punishment. Inmates also able to participate in accredited educational programs and obtain an IT qualification. About 12 percent of all prison staff are dedicated to socio-educational programs.
  • German inmates enjoy higher levels of freedom and lower rates of recidivism compared to most countries. About 33 percent of prisoners re-offend within three years of leaving prison.

ITALY

Prison Count

  • Italy operates 206 prisons. Total prison capacity in the country has gradually expanded in the last decade. In 2009, the French prison system had a total capacity of 44,800. This figure grew to 51,141 in 2018.

Prisoner Count

  • The total number of prisoners in Italy has increased slightly over the last ten years. In 2000, there were about 53,100 prisoners in the country serving time. This figure increased to 59,600 inmates in 2018.

Private Prison Operators

Prisoner Educational and Resocialization.

  • About 68 percent of prisoners in Italy are re-offenders and return to prison for new crimes after being released.
  • Also, inmates are allowed to participate in various activities. About 26.7 percent of inmates engage in sporting activities, while 29.7 percent hold a job while in prison.
  • Prisoners also have access to educational and vocational training. About 35.3 percent of inmates are currently enrolled in academic training, while 4.2 percent of prisoners in the country are registered in some form of vocational training.
GLENN TREVOR
Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at The Digital Momentum with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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