Switzerland is Europe leader in prison escapees

Escapes from closed prisons like this one are in sharp decline in Switzerland. Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Switzerland has the highest rate in Europe of prisoners who manage to flee detention centres, according to a new study.  

This content was published on April 3, 2019 - 14:30
Stephan Rathgeb, SRF

Figures from the reportExternal link prepared for the Council of Europe show that in 2017, over 250 inmates per 10,000 inhabitants made a run for it in Switzerland. The rate was much less in neighbouring countries: in France it was about 88 per 10,000 prison inmates, in Germany 61 and Austria 30.

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According the University of Lausanne’s Marcelo Aebi, one of the authors of the report, the high number of prison escapees is due to the fact that Switzerland - as well as Scandinavian countries - places great emphasis on open and semi-open detention in order to help prisoners adjust to liberty once their detention ends.

Aebi adds that countries that rely heavily on open prisons and reintegration generally have a lower rate of prison inmates overall. The recidivism rates are also lower in such countries and re-socialisation of criminals is more successful.

"Countries that have a very restrictive prison system without open detention have an average relapse rate of around 50%in the long term," says Aebi.

In countries with an open prison system, the relapse rate among adults, measured in terms of new convictions, is 38%, the study shows.

Classic prison escape declining

But the figures on escapee convicts also show that “classic” prison breakouts - i.e. those from closed prisons - are declining sharply in Switzerland.

In 2010, 24 prisoners broke out of closed Swiss prisons. Last year only six managed. Escape from open prisons varies greatly from year to year. In 2012, for example, 250 prisoners fled while in 2017, there were 170 escapees.

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