Welsh Imprisonment rates highest in Western Europe

Wales revealed to have the ‘highest imprisonment rate’ in Western Europe: Photo Credit: Jeff Clark, BLM, via

by Thomas Haddon

According to new research from Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre, Wales has the highest imprisonment rate across the whole of Western Europe.

The study, which is the first of its kind, analyses Wales and England separately as opposed to earlier research which grouped the two nations together.

England and Wales together have the highest imprisonment rate in Western Europe, but this new research singles out Wales as having far higher average custody rates across a number of categories. In 2017, there were 154 prisoners per 100,000 of the Welsh population compared to England’s 141 prisoners per 100,000 population.

Wales has recorded a higher rate of imprisonment than England in every consecutive year from 2013-2017, despite having a lower reported crime rate than England in the same time period.

An earlier report by the Wales Governance Centre from June 2018, highlighted a
deterioration in Welsh prison conditions with the numbers of self-harm and prison assault reports increasing at a faster rate since 2010 than in English prisons.

Furthermore, the study also revealed a high level of racial disproportionality in the Welsh prison system, with Black people being 4.5 times over-represented when examined, in relation to the 2011 Census Welsh population statistics.

Dr Robert Jones, the report author for the study, concluded that these findings:
“Undoubtedly calls into question the role being played by UK justice agencies in Wales as well as civil society organisations and academic researchers”.

Jones added that: “It is hoped that the findings of this research will feed into the ongoing work of the Commission on Justice in Wales as well as further debates on criminal justice within the National Assembly for Wales”.

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