Custodial Versus Noncustodial Sentences: A Comparison Among European Countries

Philip L. Reichel, University of Northern Colorado

Comparing countries on their use of imprisonment has traditionally relied on the rather crude rate that results from dividing the number of persons in prison by the total population of the country. More carefully constructed questionnaires distributed over a broader range of countries are now providing opportunities for alternative measures to the traditional imprisonment rate data. Examples include the information about specific sentences like imprisonment, probation, and suspension without supervision, that many countries are now making available. This paper highlights the problems inherent in using the standard imprisonment rate for county comparison and shows the increasing diversity in variables available for comparative research. With data from the Sixth United Nations Survey on Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems, variables relevant to both custodial and noncustodial sentences are used to compare European countries on their use of imprisonment versus community-based sentences.

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Updated 05/20/2006