*The imprisonment rate in England and Wales is the highest of any major country in western Europe, according to figures published today.
However, 50 years ago proportionately far more people were sent to jail for the number of crimes committed, a separate study has found.
A league table of the world's prison population shows that 142 out of every 100,000 people are in jail in England and Wales - far higher than France (91), Germany (96) and Italy (98). Only Spain, with 140, comes close among similarly-sized countries. But in the EU as a whole, the recent accession countries of eastern Europe have some of the highest incarceration rates in the world, with Latvia and Estonia both jailing almost 340 people for every 100,000.
The lowest rates in the EU can be found in Scandinavia, with Norway and Sweden (65), Denmark (70) and Finland (71) all well below the international average. Northern Ireland has just 72 but the rate is 132 in Scotland. Only Luxembourg in western Europe has a higher rate than England and Wales, at 144 per 100,000 population.