News Local Release of 121 prisoners to contain coronavirus eases overcrowding

Release of 121 prisoners to contain coronavirus eases overcrowding


Cyprus released 121 prison inmates to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a move which helped ease prison overcrowding according to the 2019 SPACE II annual survey, carried out for the Council of Europe by the University of Lausanne.

It was among 20 out of 43 prison administrations of Council of Europe member states which reported having released inmates, applying various measures such as amnesties, early and provisional releases and other alternatives to deprivation of liberty.

Excluding countries with less than 500,000 inhabitants, those which released the highest proportions of prisoners were Turkey (35%; 102,944 inmates), Cyprus (16%; 121), Slovenia (16%; 230), Portugal (15%; 1,874), Norway (13%; 401), Ireland (12%; 476), Italy (9.4%; 5,739) and Spain (7.4%; 4,356).

Cyprus was also among the four prison administrations which had reported overcrowding on January 1, 2020 that significantly reduced their prison density by April 15 (Cyprus, Italy, France and Slovenia).  Sweden, the only country not to apply a lockdown of its population, joined the group of countries with overcrowded prisons.

Specifically, reduced prison density from 134.6 to 108.8 inmates for every 100 available places).

However, it remained one of 10 administrations with a prison density of more than 100 inmates per 100 places on January 1 that continued to be overcrowded on April 15: Turkey, Romania, Greece, Hungary, Cyprus, Italy, France, Serbia, Czech Republic and Austria; although Turkey reduced its prison population drastically in May.

The report notes that European states are increasingly resorting to sanctions and measures which keep offenders in the community without deprivation of liberty.

The SPACE II survey was published together with a special SPACE I report on Prisoners in Europe in Pandemic Times. This report includes an evaluation of the short-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on European prison populations up to 15 April 2020, a period which roughly coincides with the first month of lockdown.

2019 SPACE II survey on probationers in Europe

  • The countries where the probation population decreased the most were the Netherlands (-17.7%, from 42,980 to 35,383 probationers), Bulgaria (-14%, from 5,774 to 4,966 probationers), Czech Republic (-8.7%, from 26,261 to 23,966 probationers), and Cyprus (-6.8%, from 913 to 851 probationers).
  • Countries with both low probation and prison rates were Norway (46 probationers and 61 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants), Switzerland (50 probationers and 81 inmates), Finland (53 probationers and 50 inmates), Iceland (73 probationers and 40 inmates), Slovenia (78 probationers and 67 inmates), Croatia (92 probationers and 79 inmates), Cyprus (97 probationers and 83 inmates) and Sweden (99.6 probationers and 60 inmates).


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