Britain is the EU’s capital of prisons

Wandsworth prison in London. [diamond geezer/Flickr]

The United Kingdom jails more people and spends more money on its prisons than any other member state, research published today (8 March) has revealed.

There are 95,248 prisoners behind bars across Great Britain, more than France (77,739), Spain (65,931), Germany (65,710), and Italy (54,252), according to the Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics.

[infogram id=”total_inmates_in_eu_countries_2014″ prefix=”mrn” format=”interactive” title=” Total inmates in EU countries, 2014″]

The annual report is based on information by prison administrations in the 47 members of the Council of Europe. Only Russia (671,027) and Turkey (151,451) had higher inmate numbers.

The total budget for the UK was about €3.9 billion, which is higher than any other country on the list, EU or otherwise, apart from Russia.

[infogram id=”total_budget_spent_by_eu_prison_administrations_2013″ prefix=”dAk” format=”interactive” title=”Total budget spent by EU prison administrations, 2013″]

In England and Wales, the average daily expenditure per prisoner was €109.72 and in Scotland €107. €9.38 million is spent every day on average in keeping prisoners in England and Wales.

Italy’s total budget was €3.08 billion, Germany’s €2.7 billion, France’s €2.5 billion, Spain’s €1.45 billion, and the Netherlands €1.02 billion. Cyprus (about €16 million) and Slovenia (€33.6 million) spent the least out of those countries which submitted figures.

The UK had the fourth highest number of foreigners behind bars in the EU, just under 12% of the total population, on 1 September 2014.

11,246 of the 95,248 prisoners in Britain were foreigners, according to the latest data. In 2014, 4,486 of that total were EU citizens.

Spain had 20,125 foreigners, nearly a third (30.5%) of its prison population. 4,618 (22.9%) were EU citizens.

19,592 out of 65,710 prisoners in Germany were foreign, 29.8% of the total population. There was no data for what proportion of those criminals were EU citizens.

Out of a total 54,252 prisoners in Italy, 17,457 were foreigners (32.2%), with 21.9% (3,828) of that total coming from other EU member states.

France’s 14,688 foreigners represented 18.9% of the total prison population. 3,836 (26.1%) of the foreigners were EU citizens.

Smaller countries, such as Luxembourg, with 72.7%, had far higher percentages of foreign inmates in their prison population.

More than half (7,116) of Greece’s total 12,006 prison population (59.3%) were foreign. 50.1% of Austria’s prisoners (4,441 of 8,857), 47.7% of Cyprus’ 539 prisoners and 5,360 (40.6%) of Belgium’s 13,212 inmates came from abroad.

43.7% of Austria’s and 30.8% of Belgium’s foreign prisoners were EU citizens.

[infogram id=”domestic_and_foreign_inmates_in_eu_countries_2014″ prefix=”YPi” format=”interactive” title=”Domestic and foreign inmates in EU countries, 2014″]


Despite a slow decrease in overcrowding, Europe’s prisons remained close to capacity in 2014, holding over 1.6 million people in total, the Council of Europe said. That figure includes non-EU countries.

The average cost per inmate per day in 2013 was €99, ranging from €2.68 per day in Ukraine to over €200 per day in member states including the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The total cost across the 45 prison administrations that submitted data was over €27 billion.

Overcrowding remained a problem in one in four prison administrations, including in Hungary (142 inmates per 100 places available), Belgium (129), Greece (121), France (114.5) and Italy (109.8).

On average, suicide accounted for 21% of deaths in penal institutions in 2013, including 92% in Norway, 63% in France, 46% in Sweden, 41% in Germany and 35% in England and Wales.

34% of prisoners who committed suicide were in pre-trial detention, and 5% were female, the report found.

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