By Lowana Veal

REYKJAVIK (IDN) – “Renewable hydrogen is set to outperform gasoline on a cost basis, due to substantial cost reductions for hydrogen and renewable technologies,” according to Jakob Kropsgaard of Norwegian firm NEL Hydrogen, which delivers solutions for producing, storing and distributing hydrogen from renewable energy

Speaking at a seminar here on alternative fuels for the future at the end of March, Kropsgaard said that “it is possible to produce hydrogen at a cost of 3-5 euros per kg”. When used for fuel, hydrogen is measured in kilos rather than litres.

Nevertheless, according to Valgeir Baldursson, CEO of Skeljungur oil company, “consumption of hydrogen fuel at the moment is not sufficient to produce a low price. The current cost in Europe is about 10 euros per kg.”

- Photo: 2021

UNODC’s First Global Research on Imprisonment Reveals Shocking Facts

By Reinhard Jacobsen

VIENNA (IDN | UNODC) — One in every three prisoners worldwide are held without a trial, which means that they have not been found guilty by any court of justice, according to the first global research data on prisons published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The research brief released ahead of Nelson Mandela International Day on July 18, examines the long-term trends of imprisonment.

It states that over the past two decades, between 2000 and 2019, the number of prisoners worldwide has increased by more than 25 per cent, with a global population growth of 21 per cent in the same period, with 11.7 million people incarcerated at the end of 2019. This is a population comparable in size to entire nations such as Bolivia, Burundi, Belgium, or Tunisia.

At the end of 2019—the latest year data is available—there were around 152 prisoners for every 100,000 population. While Northern America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe have experienced a long-term decrease in imprisonment rates of up to 27 per cent, other regions and countries, such as Latin America and Australia and New Zealand, have seen growth over the last two decades of up to 68 per cent.

At 93 per cent, most of the persons detained in prison globally are men. Over the past two decades, however, the number of women in prisons has increased at a faster pace, with an increase of 33 per cent versus 25 per cent for men.

As guardian of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners—the so-called Nelson Mandela Rules—UNODC also looked at data on overcrowding in prisons. While the rates vary substantially across regions, in roughly half of all countries with available data, prison systems are operating at more than 100 per cent of their intended capacity.


The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically shifted attention towards the issue of prison overcrowding. According to a global analysis of Government and open sources, as of May 2021, nearly 550,000 prisoners in 122 countries have become infected with COVID-19, with close to 4,000 fatalities in prisons in 47 countries.

In response to the pandemic, some prisons limited recreation, work opportunities, and visitation rights, all essential components of rehabilitation programmes. With prevention measures often difficult to implement in prisons, especially when they are overcrowded, some countries meanwhile opted to release, at least temporarily, large numbers of people in custody, particularly remand prisoners and those convicted of non-violent offences.

Since March 2020, at least 700,000 persons around the globe—or roughly 6 per cent of the estimated global prison population—have been authorized or considered eligible for release through emergency release mechanisms adopted by 119 Member States.

The global share of unsentenced detainees in the prison population has not changed much in the past 20 years, ranging between 29% and 31%. This suggests that little global progress has been made in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 16.3 on access to justice.

Curbing Pre-trial detention

The report proposes the following measures that can contribute to curbing the excessive use of pre-trial detention and imprisonment, and alleviate the adverse consequences of prison overcrowding:

  • Ensuring that a wide range of alternatives to imprisonment are available and sustainable in law, policy and in practice at every stage of the criminal justice process, so as to enable individualized and proportionate sentencing in line with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules on Non-Custodial Measures (the Tokyo Rules).
  • Replacing excessively punitive approaches that aim at ensuring public safety with evidence-based criminal justice policies that include a strong component on crime prevention.
  • Widening timely and effective access to justice, in particular for those in pre-trial detention, by, inter alia, providing access to legal aid to all those accused of a criminal offence, in line with the United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems.
  • Addressing procedural bottlenecks in criminal justice systems, improving case management and the capacity of prosecution services and the judiciary, and reviewing criminal legislation that has been found to contribute to over-incarceration (e.g. mandatory minimum sentencing) or which criminalizes acts protected by international human rights law.

Furthermore, says the report, measures can be taken to counteract the relative increase in the female prison population, including:

  • the development and implementation of gender-specific options for diversion and non-custodial measures at every stage of the criminal justice process. Such measures should take into account the history of victimization of many women offenders and their caretaking responsibilities, as well as mitigating factors, such as lack of a criminal history and the nature and severity of the offence, in line with the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules). [IDN-InDepthNews – 17 July 2021]

Cover by Haidy Darwish. Credit: UNODC

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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