Rise in NI prison population
01/06/2004 - 14:34:10

Northern Ireland’s prison population increased by 12% last year, it was revealed today.

Figures released by the Northern Ireland Office showed the overall annual average prison population went up from an average of 1,026 in 2002 to 1,152 in 2003.

At the same time the number of receptions into prison increased by 9% from 4,865 in 2002 to 5,309 last year.

But despite its reputation for violence Northern Ireland has the lowest ratio of prisoners to population in the UK.

The province had 70 prisoners per 100,000 of the population in 2003, compared to 141 in England and Wales and 129 in Scotland.

The highest ratio in the European Union is in Hungary, 165 per 100,000, and the lowest is in Norway, 59.

Northern Ireland’s prison population was almost exclusively male – women making up just 1% of those behind bars.

Violence – against the person, sexual offences and robbery – was responsible for 64% of inmates, seven per cent were serving sentences for drug offences and seven per cent for motoring offences.

Prisoners serving sentences of between one and five years formed 42% of inmates. Those serving up to one year 19% and those serving more than five years but less than life accounted for 24%.

Life sentence prisoners made up 15% of the prison population.

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