Australian Institute of Criminology

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Prison population ageing, but robbery offenders getting younger

Media Release

04 May 2000

The median age of prisoners has increased regardless of offence with the exception of robbery, which recorded a decline in the median age for both male and female prisoners.

These are the findings of a report released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology, which provides valuable insight into the demographic composition of the prison population and its changes over the ten years from 1988 to 1998.

Australian Corrections: Main Demographic Characteristics of Prison Populations by Carlos Carcach and Anna Grant, reveals that the median age of prisoners increased during this period from 28.7 to 30 years for males and from 28.7 to 29.8 for females.

"The increase in the age of admission is definitely a factor in our aging prison population. The median age of admission for male prisoners increased from 26.8 years in 1988 to 28.4 in 1998 and for female prisoners from 27.9 years in 1988 to 28.9 in 1998", Dr Adam Graycar, Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology said today.

Among males, the percentage of prisoners aged 35 years and above has increased and those aged below 25 years has decreased. For women, the percentage of prisoners aged 19 and below, 30-39 and 45-54 years has increased, while those aged 20-29, 40-44, and 55 and above have all decreased.

Most prisoners were born in Australia, with a stable rate of approx. 1 per 100 000 population. The rate for all prisoners by country of birth has decreased or remained stable except for Vietnam and Oceania (other than New Zealand) which have increased.

Prisoners born in Australia, NZ, the UK and Ireland are most commonly remanded or sentenced for violent offences. Drug offences contribute a significant proportion of prisoners born in other countries, in particular Vietnam and other Asian countries.