Prison Population in Europe

Which European countries have the largest prison population, relative to its population size?

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Map of the prison population rate in Europe.

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On this map we can see how many inmates every country has per 100,000 inhabitants.

The largest numbers can be found in the eastern half of Europe. Turkey and Russia have far more inmates per 100,000 inhabitants than any other European country.

The European average is 124 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants. The EU average is 103.

The lowest rates can be found in the micro-states and in the Nordic countries. The Netherlands and Northern Ireland also have a relatively low rate. San Marino has the lowest rate in Europe, because it has no prisoners at all in 2020!

The data for this map comes from the Council of Europe’s Annual Penal Statistics. So, does this data tell anything about the quality of the justice system, crime rates or effectiveness of the law enforcement? Well, that’s hard to tell. For Russia and Turkey, the high prison population could be linked to the poor state of democracy in those countries. Resulting in a higher number of political prisoners.

But for the other countries, is a high prison population rate the result of a high crime rate or is the law enforcement very tough and effective? The report of the source sadly doesn’t give an answer to this. However, if you want to answer those questions, you need to take a lot more statistics into account than just the prison population rate. The source’s report is a good starting point, but you’ll need much more than that.


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