Prison in Europe: Overview and trends

The European Prison Observatory operates in 8 countries (France, United Kingdom, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Spain), in order to monitor the penitentiary systems and the prison regimes and conditions. Through quantitative and qualitative analysis, the European Prison Observatory analyses the present conditions of the national prison systems and the related systems of alternatives to detention in Europe, underlining their peculiarities and weaknesses, and comparing these conditions to the international norms and standards relevant for the protections of inmates’ fundamental rights.
The first action of the European Prison Observatory was the gathering of available data on conditions of detention in different European countries. The main references for the identification of the data to be collected have been SPACE I (Annual Penal Statistics of the Council Of Europe) and the European Prison Rules. The annual penal statistics have been used to identify what kind of data ca be expected to be available in every country; the European Prison Rules set the guidelines to determine if detention conditions match the minimum necessary standards to be met in Europe.
The most important part of this research is the qualitative one, regarding the actual detention conditions of the 8 monitored European Countries. This part of our work is mainly based on the European Prison Rules (EPR). Established in 1987 with a recommendation of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (recommendation no. R (87) 3 on the European Prison Rules), the European Prison Rules are the main reference for the correct management of deprivation of personal liberty in the European Union. They require all persons deprived of their liberty to be treated with humanity and with respect for human dignity. The Council of Europe recommendation - revised by Recommendation Rec (2006) 2 - urges the Member States to ensure that domestic regulations and interpretive practices of the different EU countries comply with some basic principles...read more

From national practices to European guidelines: interesting initiatives in prisons management

Marie Crétenot

The European Prison Observatory (EPO) was launched in Rome in February 2013 and operates in 8 countries (France, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Spain). Through quantitative and qualitative analysis, the EPO monitors and analyses the present conditions of the different national prison systems and the related systems of alternatives to detention in Europe, comparing these conditions to the international norms and standards relevant for the protections of inmates’ fundamental rights, particularly the European Prison Rules (EPR) of the Council of Europe.
The analysis of the conditions of detention in the countries where the EPO operates highlights the fact
that none of those countries are actually applying the Council of Europe’s philosophy, or are respecting many of its recommendations. However, this study revealed several interesting initiatives in accordance with the Council of Europe philosophy that could be an inspiration for other countries.
The most interesting ones are presented below in specific chapters: they represent experiments that have been implemented on a systemic basis and have been submitted to some sort of evaluation, and which can therefore be characterized as “good practices”. In some cases, the philosophy was not fully respected, but one or several countries had nevertheless developed measures or initiatives that still remain interesting and need to be highlighted. These countries’ specificities are pointed out in the general introduction of each chapter (with a mention of the country in bold)...read more

National monitoring bodies of prison conditions and the European standards

The Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2002 and came into force in 2006.
The OPCAT establishes a system of unannounced and unrestricted visits to all places where persons are deprived of their liberty by independent international and national monitoring bodies. When a State ratifies the OPCAT, its main obligation is to set up a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to undertake regular visits to places of detention. For the first time, an international treaty focuses on national implementation and provides a national body with specific powers to prevent torture and ill-treatment. NPMs are mandated to conduct regular visit to all types of places where persons are deprived of liberty. These visits should lead to reports and concrete recommendations to improve the protection of persons deprived of liberty. NPMs can also make comments on laws and regulations and propose reforms. Every year, NPMs have to publish an annual report on their activities and torture prevention issues in their country.
Half of the States in the world have expressed an interest in the system promoted by the OPCAT. As of February 2014, 72 States had ratified the OPCAT and an additional 20 States had signed the treaty. Many others have started consultations at the national level in the view of ratification. (www.apt.ch/en/opcat)...read more