[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 January 2006, 14:36 GMT
Jail rate 'west Europe's highest'
Inside Leeds prison
The UK jails 140.4 people in every 100,000, the Howard League says
A higher proportion of the population of England and Wales is behind bars than that of any other western European country, a prison reform group reports.

According to a league table drawn up by the Howard League for Penal Reform, 140.4 people in every 100,000 of the population are in jail.

This rate is 50% higher than France and double that of Scandinavian countries.

The Home Office says there is a range of tough non-custodial sentences courts can use where appropriate.

Imprisonment league tables

The international imprisonment league tables have been drawn up by the Howard League from Council of Europe figures based on the situation in 1 September 2004.

Of 32 European countries listed as having the highest overall rates of incarceration, Ukraine was top with 406.3 people in jail per 100,000 of population.

Scotland had 135.6 per 100,00 in jail, Northern Ireland 75.7, Turkey 99.9, Italy 96.9 and France 90.5.

Is this really where we want to be? We have to end this country's obsession with custody
Frances Cook

England and Wales was 11th in the list - the 2,742 under 18s in custody making up 3.1% of the total prison population.

But the league said England and Wales' true rate of imprisonment was likely to be even higher in comparison to other countries, because its figures, unlike some, did not include people in drug rehabilitation centres, psychiatric hospitals and immigration detention centres or prisoners released subject to tagging orders.

England and Wales also jails more under-18s than any European country apart from Ukraine, the report says.

The figures showed 2,742 under-18s were in custody in - the highest number apart from Ukraine.

This included children in young offender institutions, secure training centres and secure children's homes.

Child prisoners

England and Wales topped the league for the number of young adults (aged 18 to 20) incarcerated with 8,514 behind bars, making up 11.4% of total inmates.

The country with the next highest rate was Turkey, with 8,397 young adult inmates, followed by Germany, with 5,443.

But the country with the highest proportion of child inmates within the prison population was Northern Ireland, where under-18s made up 5.2% of those in custody.

England and Wales also had the third largest female prison population - 4,452 - above countries such as France, Italy and Germany, which have higher national populations.

It is right for serious, persistent and dangerous offenders to be imprisoned for as long as is necessary to punish the guilty and protect the public
Baroness Scotland

The country with the most women prisoners was Ukraine, with 11,832, followed by Spain, with 4,518. Germany had 3,972, Italy 2,645 and France 2,205.

The report is published as part of a series of events marking the Howard League's 140th anniversary.

Howard League director Frances Cook said the use of prison was "seemingly indiscriminate".

She said: "Not only do we send a higher proportion of our own citizens to prison than any other western European country, we also trump Turkey, Armenia and Bulgaria in the imprisonment stakes.

"Is this really where we want to be? We have to end this country's obsession with custody. Prison should be reserved for serious and dangerous offenders."

Home Office minister Baroness Scotland said: "It is right for serious, persistent and dangerous offenders to be imprisoned for as long as is necessary to punish the guilty and protect the public."

She said the Home Office was working with the Sentencing Guidelines Council to ensure judges and magistrates were aware of the sentencing options available and used alternatives to prison where necessary.


SEE ALSO:
Foreign inmate numbers increase
25 Oct 05 |  UK Politics


RELATED BBC LINKS:

RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific