Deeper Look

CoE Report: Georgia Again Ranks Second in Europe’s Prison Population

According to the Council of Europe’s (CoE) Annual Penal Statistics on Prison Populations (SPACE I) released on June 6 and based on data from January 2022 to January 31, 2023, Georgia ranks second among the CoE’s 46 member states in terms of prison population per capita. Among all countries, Turkey topped the list with 408 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants, while Georgia came in second with 236.6 per 100,000 inhabitants.

The SPACE surveys are conducted annually by the University of Lausanne on behalf of the Council of Europe. The SPACE I survey contains information from prison administrations in the member states of the Council of Europe. Last year, 51 prison administrations were invited to respond to the SPACE I questionnaire, and 48 responded. This represents 94% participation. Notably, the data doesn’t include territories that are not under government control in Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Cyprus.

In 2022, Georgia was one of the countries that experienced a significant increase in its prison population rate from January 2022 to January 2023, with an increase of 8.2%. In general, countries in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region had significantly higher prison population rates than their Western and Northern European counterparts.

The report notes that a wide variety of factors can influence prison population rates, these factors are interconnected, and that their influences are complex and multi-layered. Along with socio-economic factors, one of such factors, the report says is that “countries with harsher penalties—such as mandatory minimum sentences, long sentences for certain crimes, or few alternatives to incarceration—should have higher incarceration rates. Conversely, in systems where judges have more flexibility in sentencing, they might choose more frequently options like probation or community service instead of prison sentences.”

Georgia has a relatively low percentage of inmates serving sentences of less than six months – less than 1%. The average length of imprisonment in European countries is about 11.8 months, with a median of 10.1 months. Georgia exceeds this range with an average length of imprisonment of 13.5 months.

The average age of inmates in Georgia is 44, while the average age in all European prisons is 38. Of all the administrations surveyed, Georgia ranked second with the highest ratio of 2.7 inmates to staff. The report notes that the countries with the highest inmate-to-staff ratios, such as Turkey and Georgia, also have the highest prison populations.

Stock indicators on 31 January 2023GeorgiaAverage
Total number of inmates (including pre-trial detainees)9 568
Prison population rate per 100,000 inhabitants256.1123.9
% of female inmates in the prison pop.3.4%5.2%
% of foreign inmates in the prison pop.6.7%26.8%
% of inmates aged between 50 and 64 in the prison pop.16.1%14.9%
% of inmates aged 65 or over in the prison pop.2.1%3.5%
% of inmates without a final sentence in the prison pop.20.2%30.1%
% of prisoners sentenced for homicide (including attempts)13.7%13.4%
% of prisoners sentenced for theft20.6%13.7%
% of prisoners sentenced for drug offences23.1%18.9%
% of prisoners sentenced from 1 to less than 3 years20.5%25.4%
% of prisoners sentenced from 3 to less than 5 years20.3%17.0%
% of prisoners sentenced from 5 to less than 10 years39.6%19.7%
Prison density per 100 places82.187.8
Ratio of inmates per one staff member2.71.6
Source: Prisons and Prisoners in Europe 2023:
Key Findings of the SPACE I survey

In Georgia, on average, each offender sentenced to prison is convicted of 1.4 offenses. According to the Council of Europe, the percentage of female prisoners in Georgia is 3.4%, which is lower than the European average of 5.2%. The percentage of foreign inmates is 6.7%, while the percentage of elderly inmates (65 years or older) is 2.1%. The prison density per 100 places is 82.1, which is lower than the European average of 87.8.

Flow indicators for the year 2022GeorgiaAverage
Rate of admissions per 100,000 inhabitants227.9167.0
Rate of releases per 100,000 inhabitants219.1137.5
Turnover ratio45.754.9
Suicide rate per 10,000 inmates3.17.1
Rate of escapes per 10,000 inmates0.041.0
Average length of imprisonment (based on the stock and the flow)1311.8
Total budget spent by the prison administration53 222 183.70 €
Source: Prisons and Prisoners in Europe 2023:
Key Findings of the SPACE I survey

Professor Marcelo Aebi, Head of the SPACE research team from the University of Lausanne, commented on the growing prison population rate across Europe. He noted: “For the second consecutive year, the overall European prison population rate slightly grew. This could still be a bounce-back effect from the reduction experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic years, due to the drop in offline crimes during the lockdowns, the release of prisoners in some countries, and a decrease in the activity of the criminal justice systems. However, this increase contrasts starkly with the overall strong downward trend in incarceration rates since 2013. It remains to be seen if there is a change of trend. The persistence of overcrowding remains an important challenge for many prison administrations.”

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