How can we address the problem of Overcrowding in Prisons?
It can be safely estimated on the basis of the figures provided by the different national penal administrations that in 2016 more than 1.600,000 people were held in penitentiary institutions across Europe. More specifically, the latest figures showed that Great-Britain had the largest prison population in Western-Europe at 95,248 ahead of France at 69,430 and Germany at 58,950. But the key problem that needs urgent resolution is how to combat prison overcrowding. This very challenging question already affects over one third of the prisons. Not surprisingly, at the pan-European level the countries with the highest incarceration rates were Russia and Turkey and in contrast the Netherlands, Finland and Denmark were registering the lowest rates. Some French prisons, especially in the Paris region, reached record high occupancy rate of 200%. It is also worth mentioning that an increasing share of these inmates become radicalized. Furthermore, there is not enough prison staff. So what is the solution to this european -and indeed global- crisis? The current response by a majority of countries aims to increase the prison capacity and therefore to invest heavily in the construction of additional prison facilities. Great-Britain plans to expand prison capacity by at least 10,000 places and France by at least 16,000 places. This solution, dictated by emergency circumstances, and in particular increased threats from terrorism throughout Europe, is understandable. However, one must question whether building more prisons is the only appropriate answer to address crime and delinquency. But whichever is the answer, there is a need to act urgently before the situation in our prisons gets totally out of control.