- Resources for Journalists
Few events are as traumatic as arrival in prison. In an instant, the individual is stripped of everything that defines him or her and plunged into a world where he or she has no control over anything. For many, the first steps in the prison environment are a period of great vulnerability. And for a large proportion of detainees – more than one in five in Europe in 2021 – these first steps are taken in pre-trial detention.
Pre-trial detention was originally intended as an exceptional and temporary measure, yet its use has nevertheless increased in recent years in Europe, due to a relatively vague legal framework, the slowness of the judicial systems and a hardening of the security discourse – particularly in public opinion. But the decision to detain an individual on remand should not be taken lightly.
EDJNet gathered extensive data and multiple testimonies from all Europe in order to shed some light on this poorly-documented, often forgotten social phenomenon.
Eva Belmonte (Civio, coordinator)
People waiting for a final sentence often suffer worse conditions than convicted prisoners, even if they're innocent.
In Europe there were 17.5 suicides per 10,000 people in pretrial detention in 2021, while the proportion was 8.54 deaths in the rest of the prison population.
Danijoy Pontes, 23 years old, was sent to pre-trial detention in 2020, for a total of 11 months. He died in a Lisbon prison: Divergente dug his story as part of EDJNet's investigation on the abuse and risks of pre-trial detention in Europe.
The suicide rate in Balkan prisons is low compared to the rest of Europe, in part because of the different composition of the prison population.
One in five people jailed in the European Union hasn't been convicted of a crime — including 12,000 in Germany alone. Studies suggest that pretrial detention is unnecessary in most cases.
From EDJNet members: