Australian Institute of Criminology

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Australian crime : facts and figures 2007

  • ISBN 978 1 921185 68 7 ; ISSN 1832-228X
  • Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, 2008


The definition of adult varies among jurisdictions and over time. Data in this section refer to persons aged 18 years and older.

Issues of Facts & figures up to 2004 defined adults as persons aged 17 years and older when calculating rates of imprisonment. From the 2005 issue onwards, imprisonment rates for reference periods prior to 2004 have been recalculated based on the revised adult age and will thus be different from older issues.

Rates per relevant population refer to the number of persons per specified population group (for example, juveniles, males or females, or Indigenous persons).

Persons under corrective services management

Corrective services agencies manage offenders sentenced to imprisonment, community corrections or periodic detention.

Figure 85 : Offenders, by type of corrective program, 2005-06(a)

a: Figures based on daily average counts

b: Includes periodic detention (available only in NSW and ACT)

  • 68% of offenders managed by corrective service authorities in 2005-06 were placed on community-based programs.
  • 32% were in prison serving sentences or on remand.

Source: Reference 22


A national census of adult prisoners is taken on 30 June each year. This section uses statistics from the 2006 prison census.

It should be noted that the prisoner counts include both sentenced prisoners and those on remand (awaiting trial or sentence), unless otherwise specified.

On 30 June 2006, a total of 25,790 persons were in custody in Australian prisons, a 1.7% increase on the number recorded in 2005. This corresponds to a rate of 163 per 100,000 adult population. This is the same rate as 2005, and follows an increasing trend over the past decade. The majority, 20,209, were sentenced prisoners and 5,581 were remandees.

In 2005-06, a total of 313,699 offenders were sentenced to some form of corrective service, with 78-79,000 imprisoned at each quarter. This count is likely to include some individual prisoners counted more than once, due to their serving different sentences or their sentences spanning multiple quarters.

Source: Reference 24 and 25

Trend in prison population

Figure 86 : Prisoners, 1984-2006 (rate per 100,000 persons)

  • Between 1984 and 2006, the overall imprisonment rate increased from 88 to 163 per 100,000 adult population. However, this rate of increase has slowed since 1999.
  • At 30 June 2006 remanded prisoners (those awaiting trial or sentence), accounted for 22% of the total prisoner population, up from 12% in 1984.
  • The rate of prisoners remanded in custody more than tripled between 1984 and 2005, from 10 to 35 per 100,000 population.

Source: Reference 2 and 24

Most serious offence

Some offenders are sentenced to a prison term for more than one offence. The offence for which they are categorised as being in prison is the one deemed most serious, that is, the one with the longest sentence.

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). Other offenders are those who have been convicted of fraud, offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations, drug offences and others, such as public order and driving offences.

On 30 June 2006, there were 9,641 sentenced prisoners in Australia whose most serious offence was a violent offence, 3,553 whose most serious offence was a property offence, and 7,015 who were sentenced for other offences.

Figure 87 : Prisoners sentenced for violent, property and other offences, 1986-2006 (percent)

  • The percentage of prisoners sentenced for violent offences increased from 38% in 1986 to 47% in 1995 and has remained steady since then.
  • Those sentenced for property offences declined from 25% in 1986 to 18% in 2006.
  • The proportion sentenced for other offences has remained steady at about one-third.

Source: Reference Reference 24

Table 9 : Sentenced prisoners by most serious offence, 2006
Male Female
Number % Number %
a: Includes motor vehicle theft
b: Government security and justice procedures, includes offences such as breach of court order, breach of parole, escape custody, offences against justice procedures, treason, sedition and resisting customs officials
c: Deception and related offences
d: Includes other offences against the person and property, public order offences and driving offences
Homicide 1,917 10 150 11
Assault 2,829 15 187 14
Sex offences 2,494 13 20 1
Robbery 1,962 10 82 6
Break and enter 2,290 12 134 10
Other theft(a) 981 5 148 11
GSJ (b) 1,709 9 174 13
Drug offences 1,863 10 193 14
Fraud(c) 494 3 141 10
Other(d) 2,308 12 132 10
Total 18,847 100 1,361 100
  • The most serious offences for which male prisoners were sentenced included assault, sex offences, and break and enter.
  • For female prisoners the most serious offences were drug offences, assault and offences related to government and security and justice procedures.
  • Males imprisoned for the violent offences of homicide, assault, sex offences and robbery accounted for almost half of all sentenced male prisoners in 2006 (49%).
  • One-third of sentenced females (32%) were imprisoned for violent offences.
  • These patterns remained relatively consistent between 2005 and 2006.

Source: Reference 24


Figure 88 : Prisoners by gender, 1984-2006 (rate per 100,000 persons)

  • Between 1984 and 2006, the overall imprisonment rate for males increased from 170 to 308 per 100,000 adult male population.
  • The female rate of imprisonment was 7 per 100,000 in 1984 and 23 per 100,000 in 2006.
  • As for the past five years, 7% of prisoners in 2006 were women, up from 4% in 1984.
  • The number of male and female prisoners increased annually by an average of 4% and 8% respectively over the period 1984-2006.
  • 58% of prisoners in 2006 were known to have served a sentence prior to their current prison term.

Source: Reference 2 and 24

Figure 89 : Age and gender of prisoners, 2006 (rate per 100,000 relevant population)

  • 93% of prisoners in 2006 were male.
  • 58% of all prisoners were under 35 years of age.
  • For both males and females, 25 to 34 year olds had the highest imprisonment rates in 2006, followed by 18 to 24 year olds.

Source: Reference 2 and 24

Indigenous status

Figure 90 shows the imprisonment rate of Indigenous (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) and non-Indigenous persons. These data include both sentenced prisoners and remandees.

Note: Population projections for Indigenous adults are based on data provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The ABS uses two methods to estimate Indigenous populations: the low series and the high series. Both employ certain assumptions about births, deaths and migration. The high series also incorporates assumptions about a change in the propensity to identify as Indigenous. Figures in this publication are based on high series population data.

Source: Reference 24

Figure 90 : Indigenous and non-Indigenous prisoners, 1992-2006 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

  • At June 30 2006 the Indigenous imprisonment rate (1,985 per 100,000) was nearly sixteen times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous persons (127 per 100,000). The difference in prisoner rates has increased slightly since 2005.
  • Indigenous prisoners comprised 24% of the total prisoner population in 2006, an increase from 14% in 1992.
  • 74% of Indigenous prisoners were known to have previously been in prison, compared with 52% of non-Indigenous prisoners.

Source: Reference 2, 24 and 26

Federal prisoners

Figure 91 : Federal prisoners, by gender, 2002-06 (number)

  • In June 2006, there were 574 male and 91 female federal prisoners.
  • Between June 2002 and June 2006, the number of male federal prisoners decreased by 17% and the number of female federal prisoners increased by 23%.

Source: Reference 25


One measure of recidivism is rate of return to prison, which has remained stable in Australia over the past five years. Similar to previous years, 38% of prisoners released in 2003-04 returned to prison under sentence in 2005-06.

Source: Reference 22

Another measure, collected by the ABS, is previous imprisonment of inmates currently serving custodial sentences. Note that the prior imprisonment was not necessarily for the same type of offence.

Table 10 : Previous imprisonment, by current offence and Indigenous status, 30 June 2006
Indigenous Non-Indigenous
Number % Number %
AICI: Acts intended to cause injury
Homicide 396 65 2,164 38
AICI 1,937 75 2,645 53
Sexual assault 597 66 2,331 32
Robbery 534 71 2,032 62
UEWI 835 76 2,247 74
Theft 266 73 1,180 67
Illicit drug offences 84 63 2,398 35
  • The proportion of Indigenous prisoners with a prior imprisonment was greater for all selected offences, compared with non-Indigenous prisoners
  • Indigenous prisoners had consistently high levels of prior imprisonment, ranging from 63% for illicit drug offences to 75% for AICI.
  • Non-Indigenous prisoners were most likely to have had a prior imprisonment for UEWI (break and enters), at 74%, followed by theft (67%), robbery (62%) and AICI (53%).
  • Non-Indigenous prisoners were less likely to have been in prison previously when their current offence was homicide (38%), illicit drug offences (35%) or sexual assault (32%).

Source: Reference 24

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 reintegrating prisoners into the community under continued supervision.

The definition of community corrections in this chapter is somewhat different from the definition of non-custodial sentences given in Chapter 5. This chapter includes weekend detention and home detention as community-based sentences, whereas they are considered custodial sentences in the previous chapter. The difference is due to different definitions in the source material.

In Australia during 2005-06, there was an average of 53,243 offenders per day serving community corrections orders, an increase of 1% from the number recorded in 2004-05.

This corresponds to a rate of 336 per 100,000 adults - 560 per 100,000 adult males and 119 per 100,000 adult females.

As in previous years, females accounted for a larger proportion of the community corrections population than of the prison population, at 18% and 7% respectively.

Source: Reference 2, 22 and 24

Figure 92 : Average daily community corrections population, 2000-01 to 2005-06 (number)

  • The average daily number of male offenders on community correction orders declined from 48,234 in 2000-01, to 43,538 in 2005-06. The number of female offenders declined from 10,928 to 9,597.
  • Between 2000-01 and 2005-06 the rate of offenders on community corrections orders per 100,000 adults decreased by 17% for males and 19% for females, while the rate of imprisonment increased.

Source: Reference 2, 22 and 24

Community corrections orders are classified into three main categories:

  • restricted movement orders (e.g. home detention)
  • reparation orders (e.g. fine options, community service)
  • supervision (compliance) orders (e.g. parole, bail, sentenced probation).

Figure 93 : Average daily community corrections population, by type of order, 2004-05 and 2005-06 (number)

  • Supervision orders (the most commonly used option) increased again in 2005-06, to the highest number recorded since 2000-01 (41,515 offenders).
  • Reparation orders are also common, with 15,367 offenders serving this option in 2005-06. This represents a 3% decrease from 2004-05.
  • In 2005-06, 866 offenders were serving restricted movement orders, up from the 792 recorded in the previous year.

Source: Reference 22

Figure 94 : Successful completion of community corrections orders, 2004-05 and 2005-06 (percent)

  • On average, 72% of all community corrections orders were successfully completed in 2005-06, a small decrease from 74% in 2004-05.
  • Successful completions ranged from 70% for reparation orders to 77% for supervision orders.

Source: Reference 22

Indigenous status

On average, 42,017 non-Indigenous and 9,088 Indigenous offenders were serving community corrections orders in 2005-06.

Figure 95 : Average daily community corrections population, by Indigenous status, 2001-02 to 2005-06 (rate per 100,000 relevant population)

  • In 2005-06, the Indigenous community corrections rate was 11 times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous offenders, at 2,962 compared with 272 per 100,000 relevant population.
  • The community corrections rate for Indigenous people rose from 2,613 per 100,000 in 2001-02 to 2,962 per 100,000 in 2005-06, a 13% increase.
  • The community corrections rate for non-Indigenous people remained relatively stable over the same period.

Source: Reference 2, 24 and 26

Juvenile corrective institutions

The AIC has maintained a data collection on the number of persons detained in juvenile corrective institutions since 1981, consisting of a count of persons detained in institutions on the last day of each quarter each year. Similar information is not available for the sentenced non-custodial juvenile population.

The long term trend data shown in this section are based on the census conducted on 30 June of each year.

Trend in juvenile corrective institution population

As there are differences between jurisdictions regarding the definition of a juvenile, statistics are shown for persons aged between 10 and 17 years. Figure 96 depicts the imprisonment rate of male and female juveniles from 1981 to 2006.

Figure 96 : Persons in juvenile corrective institutions, 1981-2006 (rate per 100,000 relevant population)

  • Between 1981 and 2006, the overall incarceration rate for juveniles declined 55%, from 65 to 30 per 100,000.
  • The rate for males had declined to 52 per 100,000 in 2006, from 105 in 1981. The rate for females dropped from 23 to 5.
  • The percentage of females in the total juvenile prison population has dropped from 17% in 1981 to 8% in 2006.
  • In 2006, the male incarceration rate was 11 times higher than the rate for female juveniles.

Source: Reference 27

Indigenous status

Data on incarcerated juveniles by Indigenous status have been made available since 1994. This section shows the incarceration rate of Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons in juvenile corrective institutions, from 31 March 1994 to 30 June 2006 for each quarter.

Note: These data are based on the high series of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population projections for juveniles. This method accounts for the effects of increased propensity to identify as Indigenous between the 1991, 1996 and 2001 censuses. In 2004 the ABS released revised Indigenous population figures in the high series for 2001-2003, based on the 2001 census. Rate calculations for these years therefore differ from some previous publications.

Figure 97 : Persons in juvenile corrective institutions by Indigenous status, 31 March 1994 - 30 June 2006 (rate per 100,000 relevant population)(a)

a: Rates between 30 September 1996 and 31 December 2002 have been calculated using detainee totals and population estimates excluding Tasmania because detainee Indigenous status data for Tasmania are unavailable for this period

  • The total number of Indigenous persons in juvenile corrective institutions on 30 June 2006 was 330. This represents 51% of the total number of persons detained in juvenile corrective institutions.
  • The incarceration rate for Indigenous juveniles was 315 per 100,000, 21 times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous juveniles (15 per 100,000).
  • There has been a 33% decline in the Indigenous juvenile imprisonment rate since the high of 468 per 100,000 recorded in March 1997.

Source: Reference 2, 26 and 27