Populations of penal institutions

Created by the Council of Europe, the SPACE I project exists since 1983. Its goal is to present comparable data on the populations of penal institutions within all the Member States of the Council of Europe.

Since the 2004 survey, the SPACE I questionnaire includes a series of items designed to clarify precisely which persons are being counted in the statistics of each country (e.g. some countries include persons serving their sentence under electronic monitoring, or in a special unit for drug-addicted or mentally disturbed prisoners, while other do not count them). The answers to these items suggest that cross-national comparisons of prison population rates must be conducted cautiously as the categories included in the total number of prisoners vary from country to country. The same is true for cross-national comparisons of deaths and suicides in penal institutions as well as of staff working in penal institutions. The SPACE I questionnaire is updated periodically in order to adapt it to the latest changes in the European penitentiary systems.

In order to increase the reliability of the survey and allow more accurate comparisons between the Member States of the Council of Europe, a few modifications were introduced in the 2008 survey.

  • In former SPACE questionnaires there was a slight difference between the French and the English definitions of assault and battery. While the English version referred to assault, the French version referred to assault and battery (coups et blessures volontaires). This problem has been solved and both versions refer now to assault and battery.
  • Former SPACE questionnaires referred to rape, but an analysis of the answers received suggested that some countries were also including other sexual offences under that heading. As a consequence, sexual offences have now been divided in two categories: rape and other types of sexual offences.
  • Some clarifications were introduced for other items such as counting units and reference dates.
  • The former category of mentally ill offenders has been divided in three subcategories: non-criminally liable prisoners, mentally ill offenders held in psychiatric institutions, and mentally ill offenders who are held inside special sections of penitentiary institutions.
  • The 2008 questionnaire was also translated into Russian. The goal of the translation was to facilitate the completion of the questionnaire and the inclusion of comments on the particularities of the national data, and to increase the number of responses received and the reliability of the information included in them.

Figures on prison population (stock) as well as on penitentiary staff relate to every 1st September of the reference year; while the annual number of entries into penal institutions (flow), total number of days spent in them, and incidents (escapes, deaths and suicides) relate to the previous year.