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, the SPACE questionnaire is revised every year.

Until 2016, figures on prison population (stock) as well as on penitentiary staff related 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) related to the previous year.

In 2018, some modifications were introduced:

  • The questionnaire has been entirely restructured and reorganized.
  • The reference date for the stock indicators is 31stJanuary of the current year (2018) instead of 1stSeptember of the previous year.
  • The reference year for the flow data is the previous year (2017) instead of the year before last.
  • The definitions of some items, as well as the inclusion and exclusion criteria for some categories, have been improved.
  • Prison Administrations are asked to indicate explicitly whether their definitions fit the ones proposed in the questionnaire.
  • The new general category of exitsincludes releases, inmates who died in penal institutionsand escapes from penal institutions.
  • Data concerning inmates who died in penal institutions exclude the inmates who died outside the penal institution (e.g. during a permission for a temporary leave).
  • A distinction has been introduced between prisons with public-private partnership, private prisons and other private facilities.
  • The category persons under security measures/preventive detention for dangerous offenders includes two subcategories: persons held as not criminally responsible by the court and persons held as totally or partially criminally responsible by the court and who have been sentenced to imprisonment.