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Sanctions and measures without deprivation of liberty grow in Europe in 2020

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Thursday, June 10
The number of persons subject to sanctions and measures which keep offenders in the community and do not deprive them of liberty grew by 3% in Europe from 2019 to 2020, according to the 2020 SPACE II annual survey, carried out for the Council of Europe by the University of Lausanne.

This growth – from 1,456,192 in 2019 to 1,500,547 persons in 2020 - is reflected by the data provided by 29 probation agencies that use the person as a counting unit (some administrations use other indicators such as the number of cases or files). It continues a trend of expansion across Europe of community sanctions and measures such as electronic monitoring, community service, home arrest, treatments, semi-liberty, and conditional release.

Considering the 38 probation administrations which provided data for both 2019 and 2020 this trend is confirmed: in more than half (22) there was an increase. 10 of them registered significant increases and 8 administrations experienced significant decreases.

Georgia is among the countries covered by the report. Its probation administration was among the 46 out of 52 in Europe that have answered the SPACE II questionnaire.

Across Europe, on 31 January 2020, there were 149 probationers per 100,000 inhabitants compared to 103 inmates in prison per 100,000 inhabitants across Europe. As of 31 January, 2020 Georgia reported 20,883 probationers and 9,806 prisoners. With its probation rate of 562 probationers per 100,000 inhabitants of the country, Georgia was among the probation administrations with the highest probation rates, along with Poland (643 probationers per 100,000 inhabitants), Turkey (627), and Lithuania (568).

On 31 January 2020, there were across Europe 149 probationers per 100,000 inhabitants compared to 103 inmates in prison per 100,000 inhabitants. It is noteworthy that the administrations with the lowest rates correspond to 2 countries that started to use community sanctions and measures in the last decade: North Macedonia (6 probationers per 100,000 inhabitants) and Serbia (35), followed by Switzerland (47), Norway (49), Finland (54) and Bulgaria (56).

In 34 out of the 40 prison and probation administrations that provided data, the probation population rate was higher than the prison population rate. The exceptions were North Macedonia, Serbia, Switzerland, Norway, Bulgaria, and Azerbaijan, where the incarceration rate was higher than the rate of probationers per 100,000 inhabitants.

When analysing the ratio between probation and prison populations, 8 countries showed low rates both in prison and probation (Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Slovenia, Croatia, Monaco, and Cyprus).

Georgia, Lithuania, and Turkey were in the opposite situation: they had remarkably high prison and probation rates – both above the European median -, which could be an indicator that community sanctions and measures are being used not as alternatives to imprisonment but as supplementary sanctions. This could also be applicable to a number of countries with high probation population rates and relatively high prison population rates (Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, UK, Latvia, Republic of Moldova, Portugal, Estonia, Romania, and Poland.

On average, 11% of probationers were female, more than double the proportion of women among the prison population (5%) in the 33 agencies which provided data on prisoners and probationers.

Foreigners accounted for 6.7% of probationers, a smaller proportion than among the prison population (17%) in the 22 agencies which provided data on foreign prisoners and probationers.

“This difference is at least partially due to the fact that it is more difficult for a foreign citizen to meet the conditions required to be placed under probation supervision, often because of the lack of a stable address in the country. It is also plausible to assume that some foreign inmates are deported after serving their prison sentences and are not given the possibility of being placed under probation,” said the Head of the SPACE research team, Professor Marcelo Aebi, from the School of Criminal Sciences of University of Lausanne, Switzerland.