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Tight quarters

Prisons are more crowded than ever

Canned food: a prisoner in Zurich receiving a meal (Keystone)

Canned food: a prisoner in Zurich receiving a meal


With 7,072 adults locked up, Swiss prisons and detention centres are bursting. The official capacity of Switzerland’s prisons is 7,048.

The Federal Statistical Office did a spot check on September 4, 2013. As the office announced on Monday, 51% of inmates were convicts subject to custodial sentences and measures. Another 30% were in pre-trial detention, while another 141 people were being held in custody.

The number of convicts went up by 35% between 1999 and 2013, with 3,667 convicts being a new record. The main reasons were an increase in the number of prison sentences, more sentences in lieu of unpaid fines and a number of people starting their sentences earlier than expected.

Of 2,104 people being held in remand, more than half were foreigners without a residence permit. Some 20% were foreigners with a permit, 18% were Swiss, and 8% were asylum seekers. In 2012, two-thirds of the people in custody were there for one or two days; 21% stayed for three to 91 days, while 11% were held for more than three months.

Since 2011, the number of detained minors has fallen by about 25%. On the day of the spot check in 2013, there were 575 minors being held either in prison or in youth detention centres. Of these, 91% were male and 9% were female.

Most – 61% – were Swiss; 32% were foreigners living in Switzerland, while the other 7% were either asylum seekers or foreigners who normally live abroad. and agencies


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