Swiss prisoners enjoy more cell space

'Prison full': Champ-Dollon in Geneva is home to almost twice as many inmates than it was designed for Keystone

Overcrowding in Swiss prisons and detention centres eased slightly last year, but a shortage remains for convicts with mental health problems, according to a report.

This content was published on September 19, 2016 - 15:57 and agencies, and agencies

“Compared with 2013, the occupancy situation in Swiss penal institutions is less dramatic than the previous year,” said the Conference of Cantonal Justice and Police Directors in its report “Capacity monitoring in forced confinement”, published on Monday.

Various plans and projects for the creation of additional space had been pushed forward, it noted.

Last year, a total of 7,589 places existed for convicted criminals in Switzerland.

The average occupancy rate across the country was 101%, but there were striking regional differences: while prisons in central German-speaking Switzerland were 82% full, those in French-speaking Switzerland were on average 130% full. The infamously overcrowded Champ-Dollon prison in Geneva was at 174% capacity, in other words it was holding almost twice as many prisoners than it was designed to hold.

Canton Geneva needed an additional 369 places for preventive detention and short-term prison sentences, the technical group concluded.

“From 2020, this shortage of space will be compensated for by transferring some prisoners to the Dardelles prison, currently being built in Geneva,” wrote the authors of the report. In neighbouring canton Vaud, 204 places were needed.

Seventy people were on the waiting list for open prisons and 599 for closed ones – the vast majority being men.

Between 1988 and 2015, the Swiss population increased 25.6% to almost 8.3 million. During the same period, the number of available prison places rose 23.6% to 7,343.

Psychiatric issues

One problem highlighted by the report was the lack of space for convicted criminals who have mental health problems.

Of the 53 people in this category in 2015, 17 were waiting for a place in a special department of a psychiatric clinic.

The report calculated there was a shortage of some 164 places in psychiatric clinics. However, there was no need for action regarding the accommodation for locked-up offenders, it said. 

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