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Increasing numbers remanded in custody

Media Release

22 May 2006

'Increasing levels of drug and mental health issues amongst offenders, and the informal and formal rules that influence decisions to grant bail are significant factors associated with a marked increase in remand rates', the Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, Dr Makkai, said today, when releasing the latest report from the Australian Institute of Criminology: 'Remand in custody: a study of critical factors and key issues by comparisons from Victoria and South Australia'.

This report, which is taken from a larger study supported by the Criminology Research Council, seeks to identify the factors associated with high and low remand rates by comparing remand policies and practices in Victoria (which in 2001 had the lowest rate of remand) and South Australia (which had the highest rate in 2001).

Between 1984 and 2004 the proportion of remanded prisoners rose from 12 to 20 percent of the total prisoner population, and the rate of prisoners remanded into custody tripled. Since 1995, depending on the jurisdiction, numbers have increased by between 50 and 270 percent. Nationally, the remandee population has increased almost 150 percent while the total prison population has increased by 20 percent.

Of the 24,171 persons in custody in Australia at June 2004, 19,231 had been sentenced and 4,935 had been remanded in custody awaiting trial or sentence. This proportion is about the same as comparable countries such as England and Wales, New Zealand, the USA and Canada.

Remandees are predominately young adult males; the distribution is similar to the sentenced prisoner population. Indigenous remandees, nationally, make up about 20 percent of the prison population and also about 20 percent of the remand population.

Females are more highly represented as remandees than in sentenced populations. Twenty-five percent of female prisoners are remandees, compared with nineteen percent of male prisoners.

The research found

  • lower remand rates were associated with enhanced police accountability for bail refusal, improved feedback loops between courts and police, higher transaction costs for custodial remand, and longer bail hearings.
  • alternatives to custody for those at risk of failing to attend custody include increased social support, case worker intervention and the use of surveillance technologies.