Close to three million people are held in pre-trial detention and other forms of remand imprisonment throughout the world according to the second edition of the World Pre-trial/Remand Imprisonment List (WPTRIL), researched and compiled by Roy Walmsley and published on 18 June by the International Centre for Prison Studies, a partner of the University of Essex.
Dr Peter Bennett, Director of the International Centre for Prison Studies commented:
OTHER KEY FINDINGS
- The total number of pre-trial/remand prisoners includes some 480,000 in the United States and 255,000 in India and it is believed that there are about 250,000 such prisoners in China.
There are some 195,000 in Brazil, 116,000 in Russia, 107,000 in Mexico, 70,000 in the Philippines, 66,000 in Thailand, 55,000 in Iran, 50,000 in both Indonesia and Pakistan, 48,000 in Turkey, 47,000 in Bangladesh, 44,000 in South Africa, 40,000 in Colombia, 37,000 in both Nigeria and Peru, 35,000 in Venezuela, 32,000 in Morocco and 31,000 in Argentina.
- In a majority of countries (56%) the proportion of the total prison population who are in pre-trial/remand imprisonment is between 10% and 40%. But pre-trial/remand prisoners constitute more than 40% of the prison population in about half the countries of Africa and the Americas and in South Central and Western Asia.
- The countries with the highest proportion of the total prison population in pre-trial/remand imprisonment are: Comoros (92%), Libya (87%), Liberia and Bolivia (both 83%), Democratic Republic of Congo (82%), Benin, Congo and Lebanon (all 75%), Monaco (73%), Paraguay (72.5%), Haiti (71%), Cameroon and Yemen (both 70%), Nigeria (69%), Bangladesh (68%), Philippines, Uruguay and Venezuela (all 67%) and India and Pakistan (both 66%).
- In a majority of countries (55%) the pre-trial/remand population rate is below 40 per 100,000 of the national population. However, in the Americas only three countries do not exceed that level and thirteen countries have rates of more than 150 per 100,000.
- Guam, the U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean, has the highest rate in the world, with 272 per 100,000 of the island’s population, followed by Panama (261), Grenada (209), Belize (202), U.S. Virgin Islands (195), Uruguay (194), Antigua & Barbuda (186), St Kitts & Nevis (181), Curacao (169), Seychelles (163), Barbados (162), Bahamas (159), Trinidad & Tobago (157), U.S.A. (153) and Anguilla-U.K (150).
- The available trend information shows that the pre-trial/remand population rate (the proportion of the national population that are in pre-trial/remand imprisonment) has grown in 98 countries and fallen in 80.
In Africa and Asia it has fallen in more countries than it has grown but in Europe and Oceania it has grown in more countries than it has fallen and in the Americas the rate has grown in 32 countries and fallen only in seven.
Following publication of the WPTRIL, ICPS Director Dr Peter Bennett wrote the following blog for the Essex University Human Rights Centre:
‘When will the tide turn?’ asks Andrea Huber on this site (11 June), referring to ‘the wave of unnecessary incarceration [which] continues to sweep more and more people into prison’.
Indeed, the World Prison Brief and the tenth World Prison Population List, researched and collated by Roy Walmsley, my colleague at the International Centre for Prison Studies, and published in November 2013, revealed disappointing global trends. The number of prisoners serving sentences or pre-trial/remands over the last twenty years has seen a massive increase. More than 10.2 million people worldwide are held in penal institutions and, if we include those held in detention camps in China and prison camps in North Korea, the total is more likely to be 11 million. Prison populations are growing in all five continents. In the fifteen years since the first edition of the World Prison Population List the estimated world prison population has increased by some 25-30 per cent while during the same period the world population has increased by just over 20 per cent. The population rate, the number of prisoners per 100,000 of the general population, has risen by six per cent from 136 per 100,000 to the present rate of 144 per 100,000.
Andrea Huber points out the main concomitants of this trend, including the increase in life and long-term sentences and increasing imprisonment for drug-related offences. She also identifies worrying developments – the rise in women prisoners, the over-representation of racial and ethnic-minority groups, the resort to bigger prisons and an increase in outsourcing a key function of the state to the private sector.
Not only are the rates of imprisonment for many countries excessively high, but they have also been growing at a considerable pace over the past twenty years, a trend which places an increasing and massive financial burden on governments as well as an additional strain on social order and cohesion. While the increasing prison population in itself need not in theory mean a fall in international standards, in practice it raises fundamental questions about the use of imprisonment and the need to focus our attention on alternatives, thereby to reducing overcrowding in order to devote resources to improving the conditions in which prisoners are held. As more, and bigger prisons are built, and at vast expense, to contain an increasing population, there is little evidence to suggest that conditions are improving, or that high rates of imprisonment have an impact on reducing a country’s level of crime. Building bigger prisons does not solve the problem.
There is another major contributor to this inexorable rise in prison populations worldwide and one which is of serious humanitarian concern which, if addressed with sufficient political will, could lead to a significant and necessary reduction in prison populations.
Today, the International Centre for Prison Studies, a partner of the University of Essex, publishes its second edition of theWorld Pre-Trial/Remand Imprisonment List. The List reveals that of the world’s prisoner population, close on three million are held in pre-trial detention and other forms of remand imprisonment. The List also shows those countries with the highest populations of pre-trial remands, including the United States (480,000), India (255,000), Brazil (195,000) Russia (116,000) and China where it is believed to be about 250,000. The List also calculates the percentage of pre-trial/remands as a proportion of each country’s total prisoner population, noting that in 56 per cent of countries the proportion of the total prison population who are in pre-trial/remand is between 10 and 40 per cent. Such prisoners constitute more than 40 per cent of the population in about half the countries of Africa and the Americas and in South Central and Western Asia.
The figures make for fascinating reading, revealing countries with the highest and lowest rates per 100,000, numbers and proportions. Trend information reveals that the pre-trial/remand population rate has grown in 98 countries and fallen in 80. Of course, figures alone can never tell the full story. But they do help in identifying countries where the proportion of people held in pre-trial detention is high and where the periods of detention may be over-prolonged and beyond the legal limits. Such high proportions impact adversely on prison overcrowding and prison conditions, pre-trial conditions often falling far short of international standards. Besides often being unnecessary, with prisoners frequently being held for exceptionally long periods, such inappropriate use of detention is maintained at great cost to the state.
International standards require the sparing use of pre-trial/remand detention but these figures reveal, country by country, region by region, disappointing evidence on increasing trends and high numbers, both as a percentage of each national prison population and as a rate per 100,000 of each national population.
The List provides an invaluable source of information for policy-makers, practitioners, researchers, NGOs and the media, and should be a strong prompt to governments to re-double their efforts to reduce their pre-trial populations in the interests of good economy, justice and humanity.