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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.

Figure 40 shows the percentage of offenders sentenced to these various corrective options.

Figure 40 : Offenders, by type of corrective program, 1997-98

Figure 40

  • In the financial year 1997-98, an average of 74 810 persons were serving a sentence under custodial or community based corrective programs.
  • The largest percentage (73%) of offenders served their sentence under a community correction program.
  • Of the 25% of sentenced offenders who were in prison custody in Australia in 1997-98, 72% were being held in secure prisons, while the remaining 28% were in facilities with lower levels of security.
  • 2% of offenders were serving periodic detention orders, which are only available to offenders in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

Source: Reference 7


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 Australian Bureau of Statistics 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 rates shown in Figure 41 and Figure 43 begins in 1983.

It should be noted that prisons hold both sentenced prisoners and those on remand (unsentenced).

Figure 41 : Prisoners in Australia, 1983-98 * : rate per 100 000 population over age 16

Figure 41

* For some years there were also prisoners classified as 'not defined'. Therefore, the number of sentenced prisoners and remandees may not always sum to the total, although the discrepancies are minor.
  • Between 1983 and 1998, the overall imprisonment rate has increased from 91.6 to 139.2 per 100 000 relevant population, an increase of 52%.
  • During this 16-year period, the imprisonment rate of sentenced prisoners has increased by 48% and that of remandees by 88%.

Sources: References 3, 9 and 10

Data on prisoners by Aboriginality has been made available since the 1987 prison census. However, due to consistency problems with Indigenous population figures, Figure 42 depicts only the imprisonment rate of Indigenous persons from 1991 to 1998. These data include both sentenced prisoners and remandees.

Figure 42 : Indigenous prisoners, 1991-98 : rate per 100 000 Indigenous population over age 16

Figure 42

  • The rate of Indigenous prisoners per 100 000 relevant population has increased by 39% since 1991.
  • The total number of Indigenous people in prison on 30 June 1998 was 3 750, a rate of 1558 per 100 000 Indigenous population over age 16.
  • This imprisonment rate was almost 14 times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous prisoners.

Sources: References 3, 9, 10 and 11

Figure 43 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).

Figure 43 : Sentenced prisoners, by type of crime, 1983-98 : rate per 100 000 population over age 16

Figure 43

  • The imprisonment rate of violent prisoners has increased by 56% since 1983.
  • Since the early 1990s, the rate for property offenders has been declining; the 1998 rate is the lowest since 1985.
  • The increase in the overall imprisonment rate in Australia appears largely due to the increases in prisoners being sentenced for violent offences.

Sources: References 3, 9 and 10

Prisoners in 1998

A total of 19 906 persons were in custody in Australian prisons on the night of 30 June 1998; this corresponds to a rate of 139 per 100 000 persons over age 16. Of these, 17 118 were sentenced prisoners and 2 788 were remandees.

  • Just under 6% of all prisoners were women.
  • 20 to 24-year-olds had the highest imprisonment rate, at 321 per 100 000 population over age 16.
  • The imprisonment rate for 20 to 24-year-old males was 594 per 100 000 male population over age 16.

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'.

Figure 44 shows the number of sentenced prisoners, by their most serious offence, in six major offence categories.

The category of 'other theft' in Figure 44 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.

Figure 44 : Sentenced prisoners, by most serious offence, 1998

Figure 44

  • Prisoners sentenced for the violent offences of homicide, assault, sex offences and robbery account for about half of all sentenced prisoners.
  • The largest single category of offenders was sentenced for break and enter (13% of all sentenced prisoners).

In 1997-98 four States in Australia had private prisons. Over 15% of Australia's prisoners in that year were detained in private prisons.

Sources: References 7, 9 and 10

Community corrections

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 1997-98 there were 54 893 offenders per day, on average, serving community correction orders.
  • This corresponds to a rate of 480 per 100 000 population over age 16.

Figure 45 shows the average daily offender populations for various community correction options being served in 1997-98.

Figure 45 : Average daily community corrections populations *, 1997-98

Figure 45

* These figures exclude New South Wales and Victorian community correction populations.
  • Supervision orders are the most common community correction option used, with 17 163 offenders under supervision orders in 1997-98 (does not include New South Wales and Victoria).
  • Fine option orders and community service bonds/orders are also common, with 12 137 and 6 365 offenders, respectively, serving these corrective options in 1997-98.

Figure 46 shows the successful completion of various community correction orders completed in 1997-98.

Figure 46 : Successful completion of community correction orders, 1997-98

Figure 46

  • Almost 75% of all community correction orders were successfully completed in 1997-98.
  • Home detention orders had the highest percentage of successful completion (77%), while fine option orders had the lowest (63%).

Source: Reference 7