Jail numbers reach EU high


Campaigners say prison does not reduce crime

England and Wales jail the greatest proportion of their citizens of any country in the EU, latest figures show.

The prison population reached 67,383 last Friday, or 128 for every 100,000 people, the Home Office said.

Prison reform campaigners have accused the government of wasting taxpayers' money on a system which fails to cut crime.

The proportion of citizens jailed is set to increase, with the total number of inmates due to rise by another 1,000 within the next two years.

Prison populations (per 100,000)

EU average is 88

England and Wales top with 128

Finland is lowest at 52

USA has world high of 702

Until the latest surge in the number of people behind bars, Portugal had the highest figure in the EU with 127 per 100,000.

Figures show the prison population in England and Wales has increased by 25,000 over the last 10 years.

Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform Frances Crook said: "The fact that we are the biggest jailer in Europe is ignominious and something the government should be deeply ashamed of.

'Mad policy'

"It is something everyone should question in a time of enlightenment and compassion.

"To lock more and more people up is a mad policy because sending people to prison simply creates more crime and more victims."

The Home Office forecasts the total prison population will grow to 68,400 by March 2003, which would top 129 per 100,000.

The Howard League is urging Home Secretary David Blunkett to adopt initiatives which would lead to more community sentences rather than jail, which should cut offending rates.

Harry Fletcher of probation officers' union Napo said: "The remorseless rise in prison figures is very, very worrying."

Scotland has 6,246 people in jail, which represents 122 per 100,000 of the population.

The average number of prisoners per capita in Europe is 88.

The lowest rates are Finland (52), Northern Ireland (60), Denmark (61) and Sweden (64).

The United States has the highest rate in the world (702) followed by Russia (465) and South Africa (385).