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 more