EU prisons in 2021: populations & overcrowding

May 12, 2023

In 2021, there were 475 038 prisoners in the EU, equivalent to 106 prisoners per 100 000 people. The prisoner rate increased after a decline in 2020 (104 prisoners per 100 000 people) but remained the second-lowest figure since the turn of the century.

Overcrowding rates were observed in Cyprus (146), Romania (116), France (114), Greece and Italy (both 108), Sweden (102), Croatia, and Denmark (both 101). The lowest prison occupancy rates were recorded in Malta (65), Estonia, and Latvia (both 66). In 14 out of the 25 EU countries that provided data in 2021, the prison occupancy rate increased compared with 2020, when the decrease was likely due to COVID-19-related measures.

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Methodological notes:

  • Some data are not available. As a result, the EU aggregates are calculated using the last available data.
    • Belgium: data not available for both indicators.
    • Ireland: data not available on the prison occupancy rate.
    • Cyprus: data not available on personnel in adult prisons.
  • Prison occupancy rate: the number of prisoners relative to the official capacity (design capacity) of prisons, multiplied by 100.