Persons under corrective services
As mentioned in Section 4, there is a variety of sentencing options available to the courts. Corrective service authorities manage the offenders placed under these sentencing options, which include imprisonment, community corrections and periodic detention.
- In the financial year 1998-99, a daily average of 76 520 persons were serving a sentence under custodial or community-based corrective programs.
- The largest percentage (72%) of offenders were serving their sentence under a community correction program.
- Of the 26% of sentenced offenders who were in prison custody in Australia in 1998-99, 71% were being held in secure prisons, while the remaining 29% were in facilities with lower levels of security.
- Two per cent of offenders were serving periodic detention orders, which are only available to offenders in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
Source: Reference 9.
A national prison census for Australia was initiated in 1982 by the Australian Institute of Criminology, which conducted these censuses annually until 1993. This role was taken over by the ABS in 1994. The census is conducted on 30 June each year.
Trends in prison population
As prison data has been collected by these two different organisations, it is possible that there may be slight inconsistencies in the data collection process. For this reason, the long-term trend data should be used with caution. Also, being the first year of the census, the 1982 data show some inconsistencies in definitions, and hence the long-term trend for imprisonment begins in 1983.
It should be noted that prisons hold both sentenced prisoners and those on remand (unsentenced).
- Between 1983 and 1999, the overall imprisonment rate increased from 91.6 to 148.4 per 100 000 relevant population. This represents an average annual rate of growth of 5% in the total number of prisoners.
- Sentenced prisoners accounted for 85% of the total prisoner population in 1999, a trend that has remained relatively stable over the 17-year period.
Figure 51 depicts the imprisonment rate of male and female persons (line graph) and the ratio of male rates to female rates (bar graph) from 1983 to 1999.
- Between 1983 and 1999, the overall imprisonment rate for males increased from 177.9 to 282.0 per 100 000 relevant population. This represents an average annual rate of growth of 4%.
- The female rate of imprisonment per 100 000 relevant population was 7.1 in 1983 and 18.6 in 1999.
- In comparison to 1983, where the male rate of imprisonment was 25 times greater than the female rate, the rate for males in 1999 was 15 times higher.
- Just over 6% of all prisoners in 1999 were women. Over the entire period, an increasing trend is evident in the percentage of total prisoners who are women, particularly between 1983-1990 and 1996-99.
Data on prisoners by Indigenous status has been made available since the 1987 prison census. However, due to consistency problems with Indigenous population figures, Figure 52 depicts the imprisonment rate of Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons (line graph) and the ratio of Indigenous rates to non-Indigenous rates (bar graph) for 1991 to 1999 only. These data include both sentenced prisoners and remandees.
Note: To maintain consistency with rates provided in 'Juvenile corrective institutions' later in this section, rate calculations for Indigenous and non-Indigenous adult prisoners are based on the 'high-series' of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population projections. Rates published in Prisoners in Australia 1999 (ABS) are based on 'low-series' population estimates and differ from those included in this section.
- The number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous prisoners increased at an average annual rate of 8% and 3% respectively, since 1991.
- The total number of Indigenous people in prison on 30 June 1999 was 4 307 - a rate of 1 690. 4 per 100 000 Indigenous population over age 16.
- This imprisonment rate was almost 14 times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous prisoners in 1999 (120.9 per 100 000 non-Indigenous population over age 16).
- The level of Indigenous over-representation within the total prisoner population has been steadily increasing during the nine-year period.
- In 1999, 20% of the total prisoner population were of Indigenous status, compared to 14% in 1991.
Figure 53 depicts imprisonment rates of those convicted of violent and property offences. Violent prisoners are those convicted of homicide, assault, sex offences and robbery. Prisoners convicted of property offences include those charged with break and enter and with other theft (including motor vehicle theft).
- The imprisonment rate for violent offences has increased from 36.4 per 100 000 relevant persons in 1983, to 58.2 in 1999. While the number of prisoners sentenced for these types of offences has more than doubled between 1983 and 1999, the population aged 17 years and over increased by only 30%.
- The rate of imprisonment for property offences has remained stable over the 16-year period. The number of prisoners sentenced for property offences has increased by 25% since 1983. This is less than the increase in the population aged 17 years and over.
- In 1999, 'violent offence' prisoners accounted for 47% of all sentenced prisoners, a trend that has remained relatively stable over time.
- The increase in the overall imprisonment rate in Australia appears largely due to the increases in prisoners being sentenced for violent offences.
Prisoners in 1999
A total of 21 538 persons were in custody in Australian prisons on the night of 30 June 1999, an increase of 8% on the number recorded in 1998. This corresponds to a rate of 148.4 per 100 000 persons over age 16. Of these, 18 332 were sentenced prisoners and 3 206 were remandees.
- Two-thirds of all prisoners were aged less than 35 years in 1999.
- For both males and females, 18 to 24-year-olds and 25 to 34-year-olds had the highest imprisonment rates in 1999.
- The largest increase in imprisonment rates between 1998 and 1999 was recorded for males aged 25 to 34. In this case, the rate increased from 507.3 to 548.3 per relevant 100 000 persons.
Offenders can be sentenced to a prison term for one or a number of offences. The offence for which a prisoner is categorised as being incarcerated is the offence that is deemed 'most serious'.
The remainder of offences are included in the category 'other' and include offences such as driving and traffic offences, extortion and property damage.
The category of 'other theft' also includes those found guilty of motor vehicle theft. Owing to the seriousness of motor vehicle theft, other theft can be considered a good proxy for prisoners sentenced for motor vehicle theft.
* Also includes misappropriation.
- The main offences for which male offenders were sentenced included break and enter, robbery and sex offences (13%). For female offenders, the largest single category for which prisoners were sentenced was government security/justice procedures offences (13%).
- Male prisoners sentenced for the violent offences of homicide, assault, sex offences and robbery accounted for almost half of all sentenced prisoners in 1999, whereas for females, only one-third of sentenced prisoners were incarcerated for violent offences. This is mainly due to the larger percentage of male prisoners sentenced for sex offences (13%) than female prisoners (1%).
- In 1999, a larger percentage of female prisoners than male prisoners was sentenced for government security/justice procedure offences, drug offences, fraud/misappropriation and other theft.
- These trends have remained relatively stable between 1998 and 1999.
In 1998-99, four States in Australia had private prisons. Over 15% of Australia's prisoners in that year were detained in private prisons.
Community corrections comprise a variety of non-custodial programs which vary in the extent and nature of supervision, the conditions of the order, and the restrictions on the person's freedom of movement in the community. They generally provide either a non-custodial sentencing alternative or a post-custodial mechanism for re-integrating prisoners into the community under continued supervision.
Post-custodial programs include parole, release on licence, pre-release orders and some forms of home detention. Orders imposed by the court as a sentencing sanction include suspended sentences, court-imposed home detention, community service orders, probation, intensive supervision orders and recognisance.
- Across Australia in 1998-99 there were 55 253 offenders per day, on average, serving community correction orders.
- This corresponds to a rate of 380.8 per 100 000 population over age 16.
* These figures exclude Victorian community correction populations.
- Supervision orders are the most common community correction option used, with 27 177 offenders under supervision orders in 1998-99 (does not include Victoria).
- Fine option orders and community service bonds/orders are also common, with 15 892 and 10 347 offenders, respectively, serving these corrective options in 1998-99 (does not include Victoria).
- Sixty-eight per cent of all community corrective orders were successfully completed in 1998-99, compared to 75% in 1997-98.
- Supervision orders had the highest percentage of successful completion (77%), while fine option orders had the lowest (63%).
Source: Reference 9.
Juvenile corrective institutions
The Australian Institute of Criminology has maintained a collection on the number of persons detained in Juvenile corrective institutions since 1981. The census consists of a count of the number of persons detained in institutions on the last day of each quarter each year. Note that the long-term trend data shown in Figure 58 is based on the census conducted on 30 June of each year.
Trends in juvenile corrective institution population
Given the differences among jurisdictions regarding the definition of a juvenile, statistics are shown for people aged between 10 and 17 years. Figure 58 depicts the imprisonment rate of male and female juveniles (line graph) and the ratio of male incarceration rates to female rates (bar graph) from 1981 to 1999.
- Between 1981 and 1999, the overall incarceration rate declined from 64.9 to 32.7 per 100 000 relevant population.
- For male juveniles, the incarceration rate decreased from 105.2 to 58.1 per 100 000 relevant population, while the female rate of incarceration also decreased, from 22.9 in 1981 to 6.1 per 100 000 relevant population in 1999.
- Between 1981 and 1995, males were increasingly over-represented in juvenile correction institutions. With the exception of 1998, a decline in the level of male over-representation has been recorded since 1996.
- In 1999, the male incarceration rate was almost 10 times higher than the rate for female juveniles.
- Just over 9% of all persons incarcerated in juvenile corrective institutions were female in 1999, compared to 17% in 1981.
Data on incarcerated persons by Indigenous status have been made available since 1993. Figure 59 depicts the incarceration rate of Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons (line graph) in juvenile corrective institutions, and the ratio of Indigenous rates to non-Indigenous rates (bar graph) from 1993 to 1999 for each quarter.
- No major trends in rates for Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons are evident between 1993 and 1996. However, since 1997, rates for both groups of persons appear to be in a period of decline.
- The total number of Indigenous persons in juvenile corrective institutions on 30 June 1999 was 290. This represents 42% of the total prisoner population, a trend that has remained relatively consistent since the June quarter of 1997.
- On 30 June 1999, the incarceration rate for Indigenous persons was 340 per 100 000 relevant population, or 17 times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous juveniles.