Australian Institute of Criminology

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More violent offenders in prison

Media Release

26 October 2000

The Australian Institute of Criminology next week is holding (in Adelaide) Australia's first conference on Women in the Correctional System but today we are releasing two background papers on remand and sentencing, with prison statistics in them.

"Australia's imprisonment rate per 100,000 population has risen from 89.8 in 1982 to 139.2 in 1998", said Dr Adam Graycar today in releasing the two reports. "In Australia, about 85 per cent of the persons held in prison are sentenced, the remaining 15 per cent are on remand", he said.

The key features of the reports are:

  • Offences against the person, robbery and drug offences have increased as a proportion of prisoners from 51% in 1988 to 57% in 1998. Both the average sentence length and the average length of stay have increased for these offences. The number of sentenced prisoners has increased by an average 85% between 1988 and 1998 for these offences.
  • About 15 per cent of prisoners in Australia are currently on remand and have not been sentenced. The decision to remand an accused in custody entails an assessment of whether the person could be considered a threat either to themselves or to the safety of others, or whether the accused person is likely to appear for trial.
  • The percentage of prisoners on remand who are female (6.2% in 1988 and 6.8% in 1998) is slightly higher than for the general prison population where females represented 5% in 1988 and 5.3% in 1998.
  • The paper shows the age distribution of remand prisoners in 1988 and 1998. While the age of remand prisoners peaked between the ages of 25 and 29 in 1988, in 1998 the peak age group was 20-24.
  • For Australia as a whole, there has been an overall percentage increase of approximately 23 per cent in the median time expected to serve for total offences. This suggests that the length of sentences imposed can be a major determinant of the increase in Australian prison populations.