CoE: Serbia’s prisons still overcrowded; state spending far lower than in Europe

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Source: N1, Ilustracija

Prisons in Serbia are overcrowded; the number of inmates per prison officer is higher than the European average, and state spending per convict is significantly lower than in European prisons, Council of Europe (CoE) report said on Thursday.

According to the report, until January 31, 2020, there were 1.52 million prisoners in 51 jails in 48 CoE member states. More than half a million were jailed in Russia, followed by Turkey with almost 300,000 inmates.

At the end of January 2020, Serbia had 11,077 prisoners compared to 10,871 a year before, the CoE report for the 2019-31 period.

According to the population, Europe had 103 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants, and Serbia 160, significantly more than the European average, but at the previous report level.

The highest number of prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants was recorded in Turkey – 357, and among the countries with a rate above the European average are Russia, Georgia, Lithuania, Poland, Montenegro and Albania.

Simultaneously, the lowest number of prisoners per 100,000 people was in Iceland – 45, and among the countries with a rate far below the European average are Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Slovenia.
The CoE Annual Penal Statistics (SPACE) shows that the number of prisoners increased the most in Turkey by 115 percent in the last ten years, while Georgia recorded the most significant drop, of almost 55 percent.

It also showed that 4,207 people or one prison officer per 2.6 inmates were employed in Serbia’s jails, compared to the European average of 1.6 prisoners per officer.

The report also said that in Europe in 2020, there were 90 prisoners per 100 places in prisons, but 14 countries have more prisoners than available space, including Serbia with 107 convicts per 100 places.

The previous report also showed among the countries with overcrowded prisons with 105.5 prisoners in 100 places.

According to the report, Serbia has a small share of women in the prison population, of less than five percent.

For the first time, data on children living with their mothers in prisons were collected for the report, and at the beginning of 2020, there were 1,608 of them in 37 prisons.

In most prisons, children stay with their mothers until the age of three, and in Serbia, it is up to two years. By January 2020, there were seven children with their mothers in Serbia’s jails.

The report also showed that the average prisoner in Serbia is 37.5 years old, compared to the European average of 36 years.

The data showed that, on average, 15 percent of inmates in European prisons are foreigners, while in Serbia, that share is three percent.

Looking at the length of imprisonment, the longest on average is in Azerbaijan (32.9 months), Portugal (30) and Russia (29), while in Serbia, it is six months.

The data show that in Serbia, 16.5 percent of prisoners served less than a year, 26.6 percent from up to three years, 23 percent from three to five years, and 19 percent from five to ten years.

In 2019, according to the research, there were 29,209 people sentenced to life imprisonment in European prisons.

Prisoners are most often in European prisons for drugs and theft.

In Serbia’s prisons, 24.4 percent of inmates are convicted on drug charges, 25.4 percent for robbery, and 10.2 percent for murder.

The mortality in the European prisons is 27 deaths per 10,000 prisoners on average. The suicide rate is 5.2 per 10,000.

In Serbia, in 2019, 63 deaths were recorded in jails, including five suicides which were 56.9 percent mortality rate per 10,000 prisoners or twice the European average of 4.5 per 10,000 is below average.

The CoE also reported that the costs for prisons in Europe in the observed year increased by five percent, to 27 billion Euro for 42 prison administrations that had submitted data. In Serbia, they were 101.67 million.

The average daily cost per inmate was 64.4 Euro in Europe, while in Serbia, more than half less, or 26.3 Euro.