Statistics Explained


Prisoners are people who are people are forcefully detained and deprived of their liberty, after a lawful criminal justice process. In other words, people who are put in prisons, penal-, correctional-, psychiatric- or similar institutions of the official criminal justice system.

Prisoners include people who are detained before the final verdict in a court of law, charged with a criminal offence. Note the difference from being detained (arrest, jail) during a criminal investigation before formally charged; and detained for other reasons, such as investigation of immigration status.

This explanation is for statistical purposes, and may differ from national regulations and definitions.

The number of prisoners at any given time depends on:

  • the number at previous count
  • how many were admitted since the previous count
  • how many were released since the previous count (also: died, escaped, etc.)

Changes in those figures depend on:

  • how widely imprisonment is prescribed (for which crimes)
  • how many convicted are actually sentenced to prison
  • length of sentences received
  • alternative sanctions, early release, amnesties, etc.

Further information

Related concepts

Statistical data