STA, 2 April 2019 - Slovenian prisons are slightly overcrowded, shows a report on the state of European prison systems released by the Council of Europe (CoE) on Tuesday. The country's incarceration rate remains one of the lowest in Europe, with an increase of foreign prisoners recorded last year.
The number of inmates in Slovenia slightly exceeded the number of places available in 2018. Slovenia had an average 100.5 inmates per 100 places available, while the European average was 91.4.
Responding to the report, the Slovenian Prison Administration said it was trying to solve the problem by means of organisational measures, however the only long-term solution would be building a new prison.
Slovenia has been grappling with the problem for years. It culminated in 2014 when the prison population peaked. It was declining in the coming years, but the prison population trend turned up again in 2018.
The administration said the current occupancy rate was 104%. Due to an increase in remand prisoners, some facilities are overcrowded. There were an average 319 remand prisoners in 2018, an eight-year high.
The CoE report highlights eight countries dealing with severe prison overcrowding, including North Macedonia (122.3 inmates/100 capacity), Romania (120.5/100) and France (116.3/100).
Slovenia is below the EU average regarding the share of prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants (61.1/100,000), with Iceland being the country with the lowest share - 46.8. The CoE did not take into account countries with less than 300,000 inhabitants.
Countries where the number of inmates is among the highest include Russia (418.3 inmates per 100,000 people), Georgia (252.2/100,000) and Azerbaijan (235/100,000).
The number of foreign prisoners grew significantly in Slovenia last year. They accounted for 14% of the prison population, compared to 9% in 2017.
The Prison Administration said the trend was related to illegal migration. A total of 874 foreigners were incarcerated in Slovenia in 2018, most of them (565) were remand prisoners.
According to the administration's data, the percentage of foreigners among all of those incarcerated in Slovenia rose from 18% in 2017 to 23.5% in 2018.
Switzerland had the highest share of imprisoned foreigners, 71.4%.
Slovenia was also listed among the countries which notably increased the prison budget in 2018, having earmarked an additional 17.5% in funding for the purpose.
The Prison Administration said its expenditure in 2018 amounted to EUR 39.9m, about 2% more than in 2017, whereby it realised all key planned activities and provided basic living and working conditions for the staff and inmates.
The priority going forward will be to secure funding to increase staff numbers, provide investment maintenance, purchase new equipment and uniforms, and to modernise security systems.
The report included 44 prison administrations and 47 CoE member states, indicating that the share of prisoners in Europe between 2016 and 2018 dropped by 6.6%. On the other hand, the share of detainees increased to 22.4%, compared to 17.4% in 2016.
A PDF of the full report can be found here