Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards, and the government permitted visits by independent human rights observers.
According to the Swiss Federal Office for Statistics, from November 2009 to November 2010, 13 deaths occurred in Swiss confinement, seven of which were suicides and the remainder believed to be of natural or unintended causes.
There were 6,181 persons in prison or detention centers (31 percent were remanded for custody, 61 percent for convicted crimes, 6 percent under compulsory measures in accordance with the federal law on foreigners, and 2 percent for other reasons). Of the total, 347 were women (5.6 percent) and 39 were juveniles (0.6 percent). In 2010 there were 1,894 persons in pretrial detention and 371 awaiting deportation, 5.4 percent of whom were female. While some prisons and detention centers housed both male and female inmates, they were located in separate wards. Nevertheless, in some instances these facilities were inadequate. For example, the NCPT criticized the deportation center in Granges for lacking adequate facilities for woman and juveniles.
The occupancy rate of detention facilities was 92.5 percent during the year; still, prison overcrowding continued to be a serious problem in major urban areas, particularly in the French-speaking part of the country. In 2010 the occupancy rate of detention facilities in the French-speaking cantons was 104.8 percent, compared with an average 86 percent in the German-speaking region. Geneva’s Champ-Dollon Prison was the country’s most crowded prison. Designed for a maximum of 270 occupants, the prison housed up to 622 inmates during 2010. In 2011 the median occupancy was 420. According to independent observers, both guards and inmates were critical of the poor detention conditions.
According to statistics released by the Federal Department of Justice and Police in 2010, there were 34 minors under the age of 17 years in preventive detention. There were 514 prisoners between the ages of 18 and 24 years.
Prisoners and detainees had reasonable access to visitors and were permitted to observe and practice their respective religions. They could submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and request investigation of credible allegations of inhumane conditions. Authorities investigated such allegations. There was no ombudsman at the national level, but a number of cantons instituted cantonal ombudsmen and mediation bodies, which acted on behalf of prisoners and detainees to address the conditions and circumstances of their detention. Larger cantons and those with high population density were more likely to provide these services than smaller or more rural ones.
All prisoners had access to potable water. While conditions for women prisoners generally were comparable to those for men, there were exceptions. The NCPT visited the women’s prison in Hindelbank in 2010 and strongly criticized detention conditions in the areas of solitary confinement, describing them as inhumane and unjustified from a legal and medical standpoint. Additional problems centered on the lack of sufficient space in some of the older wards. The penal code states that police authorities may detain young offenders only for a minimal period but does not explicitly state the length. In actuality, without an arraignment or arrest warrant, police were allowed to detain young offenders only for a maximum of 24 hours (48 hours during weekends). The law also requires that juvenile offenders be held in reform schools or separate wings of prisons where they can receive educational support; however, this was often not the case.
On July 24, prison officials opened a new wing at Geneva’s Champ-Dollon Prison that could accommodate 100 additional prisoners. In the spring the government halted construction of new juvenile detention centers in the Canton of Zurich due to financial disputes.
The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by local and international human rights groups, the media, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. In addition, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture carried out one of its periodic visit to the country on October 10-20.
On February 18, the NCPT visited the Grosshof remand center in the Canton of Luzern. While generally satisfied with overall conditions, the inspectors noted in their February 24 report that there was insufficient space.