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Wales has highest imprisonment rate in western Europe, study finds

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Wales has more of its citizens in prison than any other country in western Europe, researchers have found.

For every 100,000 people in Wales there were 154 people jailed, according to sentencing figures.

That is a higher proportion than England, which came second with 141 prisoners per 100,000 people.

It is the first time prison figures have been analysed separately for both countries.

They also show more people are being imprisoned in Wales even though it has had a lower crime rate than England every year between 2013 and 2017.

The number of prison sentences handed out in England fell by 16% between 2010 and 2017, as the number increased in Wales by 0.3%, a report by researchers at Cardiff University showed.

Researchers say the study will help Welsh authorities scrutinise its own criminal justice system.

Gradually, a detailed picture is emerging of the justice system in Wales and how it is quite different to that of England

Dr Robert Jones

Dr Robert Jones, from the university’s Wales Governance Centre, said: “Gradually, a detailed picture is emerging of the justice system in Wales and how it is quite different to that of England.

“A thorough debate is needed on why these kinds of sentencing and custodial patterns occur in Wales and whether these are the outcomes that the UK and Welsh governments want to see from the criminal justice system.”

The Ministry of Justice released the figures following a Freedom of Information Act request and they were published in a report entitled Sentencing and Immediate Custody in Wales: A Factfile.

The numbers also showed Wales gave out shorter sentences – the average prison sentence being 13.4 months, compared to 17.2 months in England in 2017.

Between 2010 and 2017, England handed out a higher percentage of sentences of four years or more (8.9%) than in Wales (6.2%).

The figures showed 68.1% of all prison sentences in Wales were for less than 12 months compared to 63.9% in England for the same period.

Women in Wales are also more likely to receive shorter sentences than men, with 78.6% of women sentenced to less than a year compared to 67% of men.

The numbers showed racial disparities too with white offenders in Wales given the lowest average immediate jail sentence length of 13.2 months in 2017.

Black offenders in Wales saw the highest average sentence length of 21.5 months, followed by offenders from Asian backgrounds at 19 months and mixed race offenders at 17.7 months.

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