Shaping the Future of Europe in Prisons: Challenges and Opportunities

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Table of Contents: I. Introduction. – II. Prison systems in the EU. – II.1. Human rights in detention. – II.2. Inconsistent and unsatisfactory detention conditions. – III. The need for EU action. – III.1. The centrality of fundamental rights in the AFSJ. – III.2. Aranyosi/Căldăraru: balancing between trust and rights? – IV. Improving detention standards at EU level. – IV.1. Litigation. – IV.2. Management. – IV.3. Persuasion. – IV.4. Enforcement. – V. Conclusions.

Abstract: Traditionally, the governance of detention has belonged to the sovereign state. Prisons across Europe present considerable disparities; in some states, penal systems are struggling with structural deficiencies, which result in systemic human rights violations. This reality directly undermines the notion of the EU as a community of values; in turn, the functioning of the Union as an Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, based on mutual trust between peers, is at risk. Departing from the negative consequences of the status quo of prisons in Europe, this contribution assesses the potential of Europe in prisons. The overarching premise revolves around the thesis that, to ensure the effective enforcement of Union values and policies, EU intervention in national prison systems proves necessary. Towards this purpose, the Article describes potential pathways, upon which EU authorities could potentially tread upon, in order to mitigate existing disparities, and enforce a common standard on detention. Consequently, the Article moves on to consider the potential impact and pitfalls that the future of Europe in prisons may hold.

Keywords: mutual trust and recognition – detention conditions – fundamental rights – Area of Freedom, Security and Justice – integration – governance.

European Papers, Vol. 6, 2021, No 1, pp. 311-334
2499-8249 - doi: 10.15166/2499-8249/468

* Ph.D. candidate, Birmingham Law School,


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