CoE report: Bulgaria’s prison incarceration rate grew 8.1 per cent in 2023 y/y

In Bulgaria, the total number of prison inmates in 2023 was 6501 and the country’s incarceration rate was 101 inmates per 100 000 inhabitants, according to the Council of Europe’s Annual Penal Statistics on Prison Populations (SPACE I) for 2023, released on June 6.

In countries with over 500 000 inhabitants, the prison administrations where the incarceration rate grew the most as compared to 2022 were Moldova (52.1 per cent), North Macedonia (25.5 per cent), Cyprus (24.8 per cent), Türkiye (15 per cent), Azerbaijan (12.5 per cent), Ireland (11.7 per cent), Montenegro (11.3 per cent), Armenia (10.6 per cent), Croatia (10.4 per cent), Hungary (8.7 per cent), Northern Ireland (UK) (8.3 per cent), Georgia (8.2 per cent), Bulgaria (8.1 per cent), Austria (6.8 per cent), Italy (5.7 per cent), and Sweden (5.1 per cent).

On January 31 2023, there were 1 036 680 inmates in the 48 prison administrations of Council of Europe member states that participated in the SPACE I survey.

Prison overcrowding continues to be an acute and persistent problem in a significant number of European prison administrations, the report said.

The countries with the highest incarceration rates were Türkiye (408 inmates per 100 000 inhabitants), Georgia (256), Azerbaijan (244), the Republic of Moldova (242), Hungary (211), Poland (194), the Slovak Republic (183), Albania (179), Czechia (176), Lithuania (174) and Latvia (172). Other countries with high incarceration rates were Montenegro (168), Serbia (162), Estonia (151), North Macedonia (142).

In prison administrations of countries exceeding 500000 inhabitants, prison density was the lowest in Ukraine (48 inmates per 100 available places), Armenia (53), Spain (State Administration (60), Estonia (68), Bulgaria (69), Lithuania (69).

As of January 31 2023, the average age of inmates in European penal institutions was 38 years (in the 40 prison administrations that provided this information).

The lowest average ages were observed in Bulgaria (33), Sweden (34), Denmark (35) and France (35), while the highest, 40 years and older, were found in Serbia (50), Georgia (44), Italy (43), Portugal and Spain (41) and Estonia, Albania, Czechia and Norway (40).

In Bulgaria (14.5 per cent) of all inmates were aged 50 to 64 years old, while one per cent of all inmates were 65 years or over.

As of January 31 2023, five out of 100 inmates in Europe was a woman. In Bulgaria, the proportion of women inmates was 3.6 per cent.

Overall, in Europe – on 31 January 2023 – 27 per cent of the prison population were foreigners (the European average). For Bulgaria, the proportion of foreigners in the prison population was 3.9 per cent.

On January 31 2023, on average, almost one third of inmates in European prisons was in pre-trial detention. In Bulgaria, the proportion of pre-trial detainees was 21.5 per cent.

In 2022, the median average length of imprisonment in European prison administrations was 10.1 months. In Bulgaria, the average length of imprisonment was 6.9 months.

The median suicide rate in European prisons in 2022 was 5.3 suicides per 10 000 inmates. In Bulgaria, suicide rate in prisons per 10 000 inmates is 0.0 in the report; all in all, 33 people died in prison in Bulgaria in 2023.

For Bulgaria, “other offences” accounted for the largest share of convictions (34.4 per cent), followed by homicide (16.4 per cent), road traffic offences (13.6 per cent) and drug offences (11.9 per cent).

(Archive photo of Sofia Central Prison: Bin im Garten)

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