No fewer than 10 million persons are in prisons globally, Ms Piera Barzano, a Senior Regional Advisor, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), has said.
Barzano said this in a document at the ongoing 13th UN Crime Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice on Thursday in Doha, Qatar.
She said that prison overcrowding had reached epidemic proportions in many countries.
According to her, prison overcrowding can also be considered as a symptom of a malfunctioning justice system.
She said the problems of overcrowding have to be dealt with by the prison administration, adding that the solutions are seldom within their reach.
The UN advisor said that there are usually several reinforcing reasons that could lead to prison overcrowding.
She said such causes are not confined to the limits of criminal justice but extend to other spheres of State responsibility as welfare policy, access to health services, education and employment.
In 2014, she said, that 77 countries worldwide were reported to have a prisoner occupancy rate higher than 120 per cent, with some as high as almost 400 per cent.
The problem, she said, was much localised and extremely challenging.
“Overcrowding also increases the risk of transmission of communicable diseases and poses an immense management challenge to prison administrations.
“Prison overcrowding impacts the quality of nutrition, sanitation, prisoner-activities, healthcare services and the care of vulnerable groups.
“It affects the physical, mental health and well-being of all prisoners. It generates prisoner tension, violence, exacerbates existing mental and physical health problems,’’ she said.
She said that there was still a growing recognition that one of the key obstacles to implementing the provisions of the standard minimum rules of the treatment of prisoners was overcrowding in prisons.