Costs of non-Europe in the area of procedural rights and detention conditions

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A wide-ranging review of current European cooperation and action regarding procedural rights and detention conditions found strong evidence that detention conditions continue to fall short of required standards in numerous European countries.

The study identifies the potential cost that individuals and member states could save through reductions in the use of detention, and makes extensive suggestions for legislative and non-legislative measures to address the identified gaps and barriers.

Background

Protecting people who are suspected of committing criminal offences or held in prison is a cornerstone of European and international human rights principles and law. Involvement in the criminal justice system poses threats to liberty, privacy and family life, and demands protection against inhumane and degrading treatment.

Goals

In light of concerns about whether EU member states provide adequate protection for human dignity and access to justice, the European Parliament commissioned RAND Europe to undertake a wide-ranging review of current European cooperation and action regarding procedural rights and detention conditions.

RAND Europe was asked to:

  • Map the gaps in the protection of individuals’ fundamental rights and freedoms.
  • Understand barriers to EU cooperation in this area.
  • Assess the impacts of these gaps both economically and at an individual level.
  • Outline and evaluate ways to address the gaps and overcome barriers.

Methodology

The team conducted an analysis of selected mutual recognition instruments and directives, such as the European Arrest Warrant, as well as a literature review and interviews with expert stakeholders. The researchers also conducted an analysis of available data and statistics, and carried out economic modelling based on this data.

Findings

  • The use of pretrial detention is an area where there are currently no specific EU measures, yet there is evidence that practice in EU member states pose threats to fundamental rights, and impose significant costs.
  • The use of pre-trial detention contributes to prison overcrowding in some EU member states, and is estimated to cost approximately €1.6 billion per year across all EU member states. Reducing the number of pre-trial detainees could save the EU an average of €162-€707 million per year.
  • There is currently no EU legislation specifically addressing detention conditions, yet there is strong evidence that detention conditions continue to fall short of required standards in numerous European countries. Overcrowding appears to be a particularly widespread problem, which can have knock-on effects on access to health services, sanitation, time out of cell, and more.
  • EU member states with overcrowded prisons recorded a higher number of inmate suicides than the prisons that weren’t overcrowded.

Recommendations

The study identifies the potential cost that individuals and member states could save through reductions in the use of detention, and makes extensive suggestions for legislative and non-legislative measures to address the identified gaps and barriers.