The UK has the third largest prison population and the suicide rate in our jails was twice the Europe average, according to a recent report by the Council of Europe. In the report, England and Wales also ranked higher in main prison indicators compared to other European countries. Being assessed as ‘very high’ means a country’s scores were at least 25% higher than the European median value and ‘high’ between 5% and 25% higher.
England and Wales scored ‘very high’ for a number of categories including prison population, suicide rates, the proportion of prisoners not serving a final sentence, rate of admissions per 100,000 inhabitants and ‘high’ for prison density. The UK had the third largest prison population (91,870) after Russia (519,618) and Turkey (297,019) and was ranked ‘very high’ alongside Georgia, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, and Albania. Countries that scored ‘very low’ (more than 25% lower than the European median) included Germany, Denmark, Norway, and Netherlands.
In reaction to the report, Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League told the Independent that ‘our European neighbours have recognised that there are far more effective ways to tackle crime than cramming people into prisons that create more problems and more victims’.
Spending on prisons was higher than in any other European country besides Russia with a total budget of £3.4 billion in 2019 for the UK. This is only slightly under that of Russia which had a £3.6 billion budget. The average prison admissions of the 47 Council of Europe member states was 149.8 per 100,000 whereas in England and Wales it was 215.5. Compared to an overall fall in the prison population rate over the last year of (1.7%), England and Wales experienced a 0.1% rise. The suicide rate per 10,000 inmates in England and Wales doubled the average European suicide rate (5.2 compared to 10.1).
England and Wales also experienced a lower turnover rate of prisoners – i.e., the release rate per 100 potential releases. The median rate was 47% compared to England and Wales’ rate of 30%.