While the number of prisons has fallen by 37 per cent since 1988, the number of prisoners has risen by more than 50 per cent since the late 1980s, according to data released on February 5th by Switzerland's Federal Statistics Office (FSO).
The number of inmates in Swiss prisons has risen sharply in the last three decades from 4,621 in 1988 to 6,907 in 2017. This translates as 82 people in prison for each 100,000, compared with 70 in 1988.
Despite the increase in prisoners, the number of correctional facilities has fallen sharply since 1988 from 152 to 106. This is mainly because smaller prisons have been closed and prisoners are increasingly incarcerated in larger correctional facilities.
Prisons have become exponentially larger in the last 30 years. In 1988, only 9 per cent of incarceration centres could hold more than 100 prisoners. Today, 25 per cent of all prisons have more than 100 inmates.
Nearly a third of all prisoners in 2017 were awaiting trial. Swiss nationals represent 24 per cent of all prisoners, a sharp decline in the last 30 years. Foreign nationals resident in Switzerland constitute 31 per cent of the total prison population. The majority, 45 per cent, is made up of foreign nationals who are not resident in Switzerland.
The number of foreign nationals imprisoned in Switzerland has risen sharply in the last 30 years.
Conditions in Swiss prisons vary, although one Swiss pensioner said he “really enjoyed the week” in one early last year. The pensioner opted for a brief period of imprisonment rather than a fine for a traffic offence.
“I am retired and had time to go to the slammer. My family were against the idea, but I wanted to enjoy the luxury,” he told regional daily the Frauenfelder Nachrichten, which used a false name for the prisoner.
“I really enjoyed the week. The meals always came on time and the service was super,” he said, complaining only that the facility had been a little “stingy” with the coffee.