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Northern Ireland has fewest prisoners in UK

By Staff Reporter

Northern Ireland has the lowest prison population rate in the UK, according to a major new study.

There were 1,690 prisoners here on September 1, 2015, latest figures published by the Council of Europe show. Of those, 164 were serving life sentences.

The report said that prisons in Northern Ireland - Maghaberry, Magilligan and Hydebank Wood - had a capacity of 1,841 on that date.

On the same day in 2014, there were 1,860 prisoners.

The latest figures for 2015 also show that there were 91.5 prisoners for every 100,000 people in Northern Ireland.

In 2014, the figure was 101.3.

The study also shows that the UK has the highest prison population in the European Union.

There were a total of 95,629 people behind bars in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as of September 2015.

Forty-five administrations were examined and only Russia and Turkey had more prisoners, with 642,470 and 173,522 respectively.

England and Wales had a prison population rate of 148.3 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants, which was higher than the Europe-wide average of 134.7.

As of September 2015, there were 86,193 prisoners in England and Wales, while Northern Ireland and Scotland had 1,690 and 7,746 respectively. The combined total was the highest out of all the EU member states for which figures were available.

England and Wales had one of the highest numbers of prisoners serving life, the analysis found, with 7,439.

The Council of Europe report found that overall, the number of people held in jails around the continent fell by 6.8% from 2014 to 2015.

Council of Europe secretary general Thorbjorn Jagland said: "The drop in the overall number of people in prison in Europe is welcome."

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