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Europe Annual Penal Statistics and Evaluation in Terms of Human Rights

SPACE (Statistiques Pénales Annuelles du Conseil de l’Europe) – Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics is a comprehensive data collection initiative that provides detailed statistical insights into the penal systems of member states of the Council of Europe. Established in 1983, SPACE aims to facilitate comparative analysis and policy development by collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data on prison populations, probation services, and various aspects of penal institutions. The statistics include information on inmate demographics, incarceration rates, lengths of detention, types of offenses, and conditions within prisons. This initiative helps monitor trends, identify challenges, and promote best practices in the administration of criminal justice across Europe.

Prison Population Rates and Human Rights Sensitivities

Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics – SPACE I (2023) report reveals significant variations in prison population rates across different regions of Europe. Countries in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region, including Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, exhibit considerably higher prison population rates compared to their Western and Northern European counterparts.

These high prison population rates indicate various human rights sensitivities, such as the effectiveness of the criminal justice system, access to fair trials, and the use of imprisonment as a primary form of punishment. Understanding the underlying factors contributing to these disparities is crucial in assessing a country’s human rights record.

Incarceration Trends and Human Rights

The SPACE I survey also highlights the trends in incarceration rates among European countries. Turkey, Georgia, for example, experienced an alarming increase in its incarceration rate, alongside other countries like the Republic of Moldova and North Macedonia. These trends raise concerns about the fairness of criminal justice systems and the proportionality of punishment in these countries.

The average age of inmates and the proportion of pre-trial detainees are other aspects worth examining. High proportions of pre-trial detainees indicate challenges within the legal system regarding detainment before trial, potentially affecting an individual’s right to a timely and fair trial.

The report shows that Turkey has the highest number of children who are in prison with their mothers and who have to grow up under prison conditions. 

Offenses and Human Rights Considerations

The SPACE I survey also sheds light on the types of offenses for which individuals are incarcerated in different European countries. Drug-related offenses remain prevalent across the surveyed countries, including Georgia. Over a quarter of all inmates in Georgia are convicted of drug-related offenses. Understanding the reasons behind these high conviction rates be crucial in evaluating a country’s approach to drug policies and potential human rights implications, such as the right to health and non-discrimination.

When the crime distribution is examined, it is seen that Turkey has the highest number of people in prison due to terrorist crimes among the countries subject to the report.

Overall Assessment and Implications

The findings of the 2023 European Council Penal Statistics report underline the importance of continued efforts to address issues within the justice system, promote alternative sentencing measures, and tackle underlying social and economic factors contributing to crime and incarceration. High prison population rates and increasing incarceration trends in some countries warrant careful consideration of human rights safeguards, fair trial standards, and the proportionality of punishment.


The 2023 European Council Penal Statistics report provides valuable insights into the prison populations and related trends in European countries. Analyzing the data in conjunction with human rights considerations allows us to understand the relationship between these penal statistics and the human rights sensitivities of the countries subject to the report. As Rights Defenders, we underscore the need for ongoing efforts to ensure fair trials, promote human rights, and address the underlying factors that contribute to high prison population rates.


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