World Pre-trial/Remand Imprisonment List

Roy Walmsley has a wealth of experience in the area of penal reform and in compiling prison statistics. He is an honorary consultant to the United Nations and an Associate of the International Centre for Prison Studies (ICPS), King’s College, London. He first introduced introduced the World Prison Population List in 1999 (currently on its 8th edition) and the World Female Imprisonment List in 2006. His World Pre-trial/Remand Imprisonment List sets out the number of prisoners held in pre-trial detention and other forms of remand imprisonment in 194 independent countries and dependent territories. It also shows the percentage of pre-trial/remand prisoners within each national prison population and the pre-trial/remand population rate (the number of pre-trial/remand prisoners per 100,000 of the national population).

When this list was compiled (October 2007) Malawi had a total of 1,950 remandees, that is 17.3% of the prison population. Data collected by OSISA over five years up to 2010 also suggested that 8,000 people, mainly young men, are admitted on remand to the six selected prisons every year – amounting to 1 out of every 250 men in Malawi. Since there are 23 prisons in Malawi, the actual yearly exposure of the population to prison on remand may be as high as 1 in 100.

Some key statistics in the World Pre-trial/Remand Imprisonment List list include the following:

  • Two and a quarter million people are known to be held in pre-trial detention and other forms of remand imprisonment throughout the world. It is estimated that a further quarter of a million are so held in the countries on which such information is not available.
  • The total includes some 476,000 in the United States, 250,000 in India, 136,000 in Russia, 122,000 in Brazil, 95,000 in Mexico, 60,000 in the Philippines, 57,000 in Pakistan, 52,000 in Turkey, 48,000 in both Bangladesh and South Africa, 47,000 in Indonesia, 43,000 in Thailand, 33,000 in Ukraine and 32,000 in Argentina. It has been estimated that there are about 100,000 in China.
  • In a majority of countries (59%) the proportion of the total prison population who are in pre-trial/ remand imprisonment is between 10% and 40%. But in almost half of African countries a majority of the prison population are pre-trial/remand prisoners. By contrast, almost half the countries in Oceania have less than 10% of their prison populations in pre-trial/remand imprisonment.
  • The countries with the highest proportion of the total prison population in pre-trial/remand imprisonment are: Liberia, where the prison administration reports that 97% are so held, Mali (89%), Haiti (84%), Andorra (77%), Niger (c.76%), Bolivia (75%), Mozambique (73%), Timor-Leste (71%), Democratic Republic of Congo and India (both 70%), Bangladesh, Paraguay and Peru (all 68%)
  • In a majority of countries (60%) the pre-trial/ remand population rate is below 40 per 100,000 of the national population. However, in the Americas 80% of countries exceed that level.
  • Panama has the highest rate in the world, some 213 per 100,000, followed by Bahamas (198), Suriname (196), the United States (158), St. Kitts & Nevis (153), United Arab Emirates (135), Guam (129), Anguilla (124), Uruguay (115), Barbados (114), Trinidad & Tobago (108), Guyana (106), Libya (105), Lebanon (104), Honduras (102), South Africa (101) and Belize (100).

By Sonya Donnelly BL, Programme Lawyer with the Malawi Project

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