News archive 2007
World prison population still growing29 Jan 2007, PR 10/07
More than 9.25 million people are held in penal institutions throughout the world according to the latest edition of the World Prison Population List, published today by the International Centre for Prison Studies at King's College London. This is an increase of a quarter of a million since the previous edition 18 months ago.
The World List, compiled by Roy Walmsley for the International Centre for Prison Studies, provides up-to-date information on the global prison population and the rate per 100,000 of the national population (the prison population rate) in 214 countries. Figures are unavailable for only nine countries (including Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia).
Director of the International Centre for Prison Studies, Rob Allen comments: ‘Given the high costs and disputed efficacy of imprisonment, the data should prompt policy makers in every country to consider what they can do to limit the size of their prison population. Excessive use of imprisonment does nothing to improve public safety.'
Other key findings
- Almost half of the world's prisoners are in the United States (2.19 million), China (more than 1.55 million), or Russia (0.87 million) – countries which account for just over a quarter of the world's population.
- The United States' prison total constitutes a rate of 738 per 100,000 of the national population, making it pro rata by far the biggest user of prison in the world.
- With a prison population rate of 148 per 100,000, England and Wales lock up more prisoners per head of population than any other country in Western Europe, apart from Luxembourg, and far in excess of countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Ireland. The prison total (in England and Wales) has increased by 18 per cent in the last five years.
- The largest rises in Europe in the last five years (other than in small countries such as Cyprus and Luxembourg) are in the Netherlands (up 40 per cent) and in Spain (up 36 per cent).
- Notable rises elsewhere over the same period include Indonesia, where the increase has been 87 per cent, Brazil (55 per cent), Japan and Mexico (both 30 per cent).
- The report also found that the rise in prison populations is evident in every continent. Updated information on countries included in previous editions of the World Prison Population List shows that prison populations have risen in almost three quarters of these countries (in 64 per cent of countries in Africa, 84 per cent in the Americas, 81 per cent in Asia, 66 per cent in Europe and 75 per cent in Oceania).
- Russia, which was successful in reducing its numbers by almost 30 per cent in the five years to the beginning of 2005, has now reversed the trend: the prison population has risen again by almost 15 per cent in the last 21 months. Substantial reductions have been achieved, however, in Armenia (61 per cent), Kazakhstan (39 per cent), Romania (30 per cent) and Lithuania (28 per cent).
- The list shows that prison population rates vary considerably between different regions of the world, and between different parts of the same continent. For example:
- AFRICA: the median rate for western African countries is 37 per 100,000 whereas for southern African countries it is 267;
- THE AMERICAS: the median rate for south American countries is 165.5 whereas for Caribbean countries it is 324;
- ASIA: the median rate for south central Asian countries (mainly the Indian sub-continent) is 57 whereas for (ex-Soviet) central Asian countries it is 292;
- EUROPE: the median rate for southern European countries is 90 whereas for central and eastern European countries it is 185;
- OCEANIA (including Australia and New Zealand): the median rate is 124.5.
* *[The World List is available as a PDF, contact: email@example.com] * *
This seventh edition of the World Prison Population List was compiled by Roy Walmsley, who introduced the List in 1999. He is an honorary consultant to the United Nations and Director of World Prison Brief – the online database of information on the prison systems of the world – is part of the ICPS website and can be found at www.prisonstudies.org
Notes to editors
1. The International Centre For Prison Studies
The International Centre for Prison Studies is part of the School of Law at King's College London. It assists governments and other relevant agencies to develop appropriate policies on prisons and the use of imprisonment. It makes the results of its academic research and projects widely available to policy makers, practitioners and administrators, the media and the general public.
2. World Prison Population List
This seventh edition of the World Prison Population List, like the sixth, has been published by the International Centre for Prison Studies (ICPS) in the School of Law at King's College London. The first five editions were published by the UK Home Office. This briefing complements the information ICPS publishes on its website www.prisonstudies.org
The information is compiled, like previous editions, from a variety of sources. In almost all cases the original source is the national prison administration of the country concerned, or else the Ministry responsible for the prison administration. Most figures relate to dates between January 2004 and October 2006. Since prison population rates (per 100,000 of the national population) are based on estimates of the national population they should not be regarded as precise. In order to compare prison population rates in different regions of the world, and to estimate the number of persons held in prison in the countries for which information is not available, median rates have been used because they minimize the effect of countries with rates that are untypically high or low.
The list has a number of limitations. Figures are not available for nine countries and the information does not relate to the same date. Comparability is further compromised by different practice in different countries, for example with regard to whether all pre-trial detainees and juveniles are held under the authority of the prison administration, and also whether the prison administration is responsible for psychiatrically ill offenders and offenders being detained for treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction. People held in custody are usually omitted from national totals if they are not under the authority of the prison administration.
3. King's College London
King's College London is the fourth oldest university in England with more than 13,700 undergraduates and nearly 5,600 graduate students in nine schools of study based at five London campuses. It is a member of the Russell Group: a coalition of the UK's major research-based universities. The College has had 24 of its subject-areas awarded the highest rating of 5* and 5 for research quality, demonstrating excellence at an international level, and it has recently received an excellent result in its audit by the Quality Assurance Agency.
King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, international relations, medicine, nursing and the sciences, and has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe and is home to four Medical Research Council Centres, more than any other university.
King's is in the top group of UK universities for research earnings, with income from grants and contracts of more than £100 million, and has an annual turnover of more than £363 million.
Rob Allen, Director of the International Centre for Prison Studies, King's College London. Tel: 020 7848 1922, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Roy Walmsley, Honorary consultant to the UN and Director of the World Prison Brief. Tel: 01689 811133.
Anton Shelupanov, Research Associate, International Centre for Prison Studies, King's College London. Tel: 0207 848 1922, mobile 07949 618077.
Andrew Coyle, Professor of Prison Studies, International Centre for Prison Studies, King's College London. Tel: 0207 848 1922.
Melanie Gardner, Public Relations Office, King's College London. Tel: 020 7848 3073, email: email@example.com
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