This week, Switzerland’s Federal Statistical Office released the latest Swiss prison figures. In 2017, the total incarceration rate was 81 per 100,000, down from 83 in 2016.
Switzerland’s rate is a far cry from the 656 per 100,000 found in the US. In a world ranking of 222 countries, Switzerland comes in 162nd lowest. In Europe, it’s the 39th lowest out of 56 nations.
In 2017, there were 6,863 people behind bars in Switzerland including 1,673 held on remand (pre-trial). Excluding remanded prisoners, the average incarceration rate in Switzerland was 61 per 100,000.
Around two thirds of all Swiss prisoners were foreign, an incarceration rate of 160 per 100,0001, higher than the rate of 27 per 100,0001 among Swiss citizens.
Overall, foreigners are younger than Swiss citizens and younger age groups are more likely to commit crimes. However, even after applying the Swiss age profile to foreign crime rates, the foreign rate was only 16% lower, not enough to bring incarceration rates into line with that of Swiss citizens2.
Swiss incarceration rates1 of citizens of the Dominican Republic (695 per 100,000), Somalia (460), Angola (440), Iraq (395), Colombia (389), Iran (314), Congo (285) and Ethiopia (281) were some of the highest.
Rates for foreigners from some western european countries were similar to those of Swiss citizens. Residents from the UK were locked in Swiss prisons at a rate of only 15 per 100,000, while Austrians (28) and Germans (25) were locked up at much the same rates as Swiss nationals. Rates for Italians (49), French (95), Portuguese (53) and Spanish (67) were higher1.
Americans in Switzerland were incarcerated at far lower rates than at home. In Switzerland, only 22 per 100,0001 end up behind bars.
Federal Statistical Office report on incarceration (in French) – Take a 5 minute French test now
1 Excluding those held on remand.
2 Crime rates for foreigners in Switzerland and Swiss in Switzerland in 2017 were 589 and 1,917 per 100,000 respectively. Adjusting for age brought the foreign rate to 1,617. Incarceration rates tend to follow crime rates.
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