Australian Institute of Criminology

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Chapter 6: Corrections

Corrective services in this chapter includes prison custody, community corrections and juvenile detention. Corrective services agencies manage offenders sentenced to prison, community corrections or periodic detention.

Figure 94 Offenders by type of corrective program, 2011–12a

a: Figures based on average daily population (prisons and community corrections)

b: Includes periodic detention (available only in the Australian Capital Territory)

Note: n=84,325

  • In 2011–12, there were 54,996 offenders in community-based corrective programs, which accounted for 65 percent of all offenders in any corrective program. Conversely, 35 percent of offenders were in prison (n=29,330).

Source: Reference 20


A national census of adult prisoners is taken on 30 June each year. Prisoner counts include both sentenced prisoners and those on remand (awaiting trial or sentence), unless otherwise specified.

A total of 29,383 persons were in custody in Australian prisons on 30 June 2012—a one percent increase on the number recorded in 2011. This corresponds to a rate of 167 per 100,000 of the adult population, which is the same rate as the previous year. Of these prisoners, 22,510 were serving sentences, while 6,870 were on remand awaiting trial.

Source: Reference 23

From 1 October 2010, periodic detention was discontinued in New South Wales and replaced with Intensive Correction Orders. These are an alternative to custodial sentences where the offender serves their time (a maximum of 2 years) within the community, performing community services (Reference 24). Previously, individuals serving time in periodic detention would have been recorded as part of the number of offenders serving time in prison. This change is likely to affect the long-term trend and therefore should be considered when accounting for any decrease.

Trend in prison population

Figure 95 Prisoners by status, 1984–2012 (per 100,000 population)

  • In the past 10 years, the rate of prisoners has increased overall by 10 percent, rising from 152 per 100,000 population in 2002 to 167 in 2012. During the same time period, the rate of prisoners on remand and the rate of sentenced prisoners increased by 30 percent and five percent respectively.
  • In 2012, the rate of prisoners remained the same compared with the previous year. Specifically, the rate of sentenced prisoners was 128 per 100,000 population while the rate of prisoners on remand remained at 39 per 100,000.

Source: References 2 and 23

Most serious offence

Some offenders serve sentences for multiple offences concurrently. These offenders are categorised as being in prison for the offence with the longest sentence, usually the offence deemed most serious. Violent prisoners are those convicted of homicide, assault, sexual offences or robbery. Prisoners convicted of property offences include those charged with breaking and entering or with ‘other theft’ (including MVT). ‘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 2012, the MSO for which 11,368 prisoners were sentenced was a violent offence. There were 3,481 prisoners whose MSO was a property offence and 2,310 prisoners who were sentenced for other MSOs.

Figure 96 Prisoners sentenced by most serious offence type, 1986–2012 (%)

a: Includes fraud/deception, offences against justice procedures and drug offences

  • Just over half (51%) of prisoners sentenced in 2012 had committed a violent offence as their MSO.
  • The proportion of prisoners sentenced for a MSO involving property crime increased by one percentage point between 2011 and 2012, while other offences decreased by one percentage point.

Source: Reference 23

Table 9 Most serious offence of sentenced prisoners by sex, 2012
Male Female
n % n %
Homicide 2,141 10 184 12
Assault 3,534 17 225 14
Sexual offences 3,031 14 37 2
Robbery 2,120 10 96 6
Break and enter 2,466 12 144 9
Other thefta 729 3 142 9
JGSOb 2,057 10 143 9
Drug offences 2,248 11 274 17
Fraud 433 2 196 12
Otherc 2,156 10 154 10
Total 20,915 1,595

a: Includes motor vehicle theft

b: Includes offences such as breach of court order, breach of parole, escape from custody, offences against justice procedures, treason, sedition and resisting customs officials. Classified as offences against justice procedures, government security and operations (JGSO)

c: Includes other offences against the person and property, public order offences and driving offence

Note: Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding

  • The ratio of males to females sentenced in 2012 was approximately 13 to one.
  • In terms of property and other offences, males were more often sentenced for break and enter (12%) compared with female offenders (9%).
  • A greater proportion of males were sentenced for assault (17%) and sexual offences (14%) than any other most serious offence. Females were sentenced more often for drug offences (17%) than any other crime.

Source: Reference 23


Figure 97 Prisoners by sex, 1984–2012 (per 100,000 of that sex)

  • The rate of male imprisonment in 2012 was 314 per 100,000 population. Between 2009 and 2011, the rate of male imprisonment decreased from 328 per 100,000 to 314—a decline of four percent. However, the 2012 rate represents an increase of 85 percent on the imprisonment rate recorded in 1984 (170 per 100,000 population).
  • Over the last 10 years, the rate of female imprisonment has increased by 26 percent. In 2012, the rate of female imprisonment increased by eight percent to 25 per 100,000 population.

Source: References 2 and 23

Figure 98 Prisoners by age group and sex, 2012 (per 100,000 of that age group and sex)

  • Across all age groups, the rate of imprisonment for males was significantly greater than that of females. However, both rates were greatest in the 25–34 year age group.
  • For males, the age group with the second highest rate of imprisonment was the 18–24 year age group who were imprisoned at a rate of 442 per 100,000 population. For females, however, the age group with the second highest rate of imprisonment was the 35–49 year old category. In this age group, females were imprisoned at a rate of 35 per 100,000 population.
  • The rate of imprisonment for males aged under 18 years was two per 100,000 population. There were no females imprisoned under 18 years of age in 2012.

Source: References 2 and 23

Indigenous status

Figure 99 shows the imprisonment rate of Indigenous (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) and non–Indigenous persons.

Figure 99 Prisoners by Indigenous status, 1992–2012 (per 100,000 population)

  • In 2012, 73 percent of prisoners were of non-Indigenous backgrounds.
  • However, Indigenous offenders were imprisoned at a much higher rate than non-Indigenous offenders. This trend has been evident over the 21 year recording period. In 2012, the rate of imprisonment of Indigenous offenders was 19 times higher at 2,302 per 100,000 population than the rate of 124 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous offenders.
  • In the past four years, non-Indigenous imprisonment rates have been in decline. Between 2009 and 2012, the rate of non-Indigenous offender imprisonment decreased by five percent.
  • The rate of imprisonment of Indigenous offenders increased by one percent between 2011 and 2012—from 2,276 per 100,000 population to 2,302 per 100,000.

Source: References 2 and 23

Federal prisoners

Figure 100 Federal prisoners by sex, 2002–12 (n)

  • In 2012, there were a total of 967 federal prisoners and 13 percent of these were female.
  • The number of male federal prisoners has increased significantly over the past five years. In 2008, there were 562 male federal prisoners. In 2012, this number had increased by 49 percent to 838.

Source: Reference 25


One measure of recidivism is the rate of return to prison, which has remained stable in Australia over the past five years of data collection. Of those prisoners released in 2009–10, 39 percent had returned to prison under sentence by 30 June 2012, while 46 percent were returned to corrective services.

Source: Reference 20

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

Table 10 Detainees previously imprisoned by selected current offences and Indigenous status, at 30 June 2012
Indigenous Non–Indigenous
n % n %
Homicide 494 57 2,326 32
AICI 2,675 76 3,074 53
Sexual assault 758 60 2,807 25
Robbery 739 72 2,169 58
UEWI 1,231 79 2,126 74
Theft 258 76 921 68
Illicit drug offences 146 57 3,223 32
Totala 7,979 74 21,258 48

a: Total also includes dangerous and negligent acts endangering persons, abduction, harassment and other offences against the person, fraud, deception and related offences, prohibited and regulated weapons and explosives offences, property damage and environmental pollution, public order offences, traffic and vehicle regulatory offences, offences against justice procedures, government security and operations, miscellaneous offences and cases where the offence was unknown

  • Of the 494 Indigenous prisoners serving time for homicide in 2012, over half had a history of prior imprisonment. Conversely, only 32 percent of non-Indigenous prisoners serving time for the same offence had a history of prior imprisonment.
  • Across all offence categories, the history of prior imprisonment was higher for Indigenous prisoners than non-Indigenous prisoners.
  • The proportion of Indigenous and non-Indigenous prisoners with a history of prior imprisonment was greater for UEWI than any other offence.

Source: Reference 23

Community corrections

Community corrections comprise a variety of non-custodial programs, varying 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 continuing supervision.

Due to different definitions in the source material, the definition of community corrections in this chapter is somewhat different from the definition of non-custodial sentences given in Chapter 5. Whereas in that chapter weekend detention and home detention are considered custodial sentences, this chapter includes them as community-based sentences.

In Australia during 2011–12, an average of 54,996 offenders were serving community corrections orders on any given day—a decrease of two percent from the number recorded in 2010–11. This corresponds to a rate of 313 per 100,000 adults, with 522 per 100,000 adult males and 111 per 100,000 adult females.

Source: References 2, 20 and 25

Figure 101 Average daily community corrections population by sex, 2000–01 to 2011–12 (n)

  • Over the past 12 years, the average daily community corrections population has remained below the highest figure first recorded in 2000–01 (n=59,733).
  • Eighteen percent of the average community corrections population in 2011–12 were females.

Source: References 2 and 20

There are three main categories of community corrections orders:

  • restricted-movement orders (eg home detention);
  • reparation orders (eg fines, community service); and
  • supervision (compliance) orders (eg parole, bail, sentenced probation).

Figure 102 Average daily community corrections population by type of order, 2009–10 to 2011–12 (n)

  • Consistent with the overall decrease in the community corrections population, the number of prisoners serving each type of order also decreased in the three years period 2009–10. Most notably, the number of individuals serving reparation orders declined from 13,960 in 2009–10 to 11,968 in 2011–12—a decrease of 14 percent.
  • Despite there being significantly fewer individuals serving time on restricted movement orders, the number further decreased in 2011–12. Specifically, in 2009–10, there were 608 people on restricted movement orders compared with 570 in 2010–11 and 557 in 2011–12.
  • Seventy-nine percent (n=46,160) of the average daily community corrections population were serving supervision orders in 2011–12.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 103 Successful completion of community corrections orders by type of order, 2009–10 to 2011–12 (%)

  • In 2011–12, the proportion of individuals completing restricted movement orders increased by four percentage points from 81 percent to 84.
  • The proportion who completed reparation orders in 2011–12 increased by two percentage points from 64 percent to 66. Conversely, the proportion who completed a supervision order decreased marginally by one percentage point from 75 percent to 74.

Source: Reference 20

Indigenous status

In 2011–12, 43,079 non-Indigenous and 10,913 Indigenous offenders served community corrections orders.

Figure 104 Average daily community corrections population by Indigenous status, 2000–01 to 2011–12 (per 100,000 of that status)

  • Indigenous persons have been consistently overrepresented in the average daily community corrections population compared with non-Indigenous people.
  • Between 2008–09 and 2011–12, the rate of Indigenous prisoners in community corrections decreased from 3,334 per 100,000 population to 3,147; a total decline of six percent. By comparison, the rate of non-Indigenous prisoners in community corrections decreased by two percent in the same period; from 261 to 250 per 100,000 population.
  • In 2011–12, Indigenous prisoners were 13 times more likely to be serving time in community corrections than non-Indigenous prisoners.

Source: References 2 and 20

Juvenile detention centres

The AIC has maintained a data collection on the number of persons detained in juvenile detention centres since 1981, consisting of a count of persons detained in detention centres on the last day of each quarter of each year. Similar information is not available on the sentenced non-custodial juvenile population. In 2010, responsibility for these data transferred to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

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

Trend in juvenile detention centre population

As there are differences between jurisdictions regarding the definition of a juvenile, statistics are shown for persons aged from 10 to 17 years. The detention rate of male and female juveniles from 1981 to 2012 is depicted in Figure 105 and includes those on remand and those sentenced.

Figure 105 Persons in juvenile detention centres by sexa, 1981–2012 (per 100,000 of that sex per year)

a: Rates as at 30 June of each year

  • Male juveniles are consistently incarcerated at a much higher rate than female juvenile offenders. The rate of juvenile male incarceration recorded in 2012 (63 per 100,000 population) is 40 percent lower than that recorded in 1981.
  • In 2002, the juvenile male incarceration rate was the lowest on record, at 44 per 100,000 population.
  • In 2012, eight percent of the juvenile prison population was female. Since 1988, the rate of female juvenile incarceration has remained below 10 per 100,000 population.

Source: Reference 26

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 2012, for each quarter.

Figure 106 Persons in juvenile detention centres by Indigenous status, 31 March 1994 to 30 June 2012a (per 100,000 of that status per year)

a: Rates from 30 September 1996 and 31 December 2002 have been calculated using detainee totals and population estimates and exclude Tasmania, because data on detainee Indigenous status in Tasmania were unavailable for this period

  • On 30 June 2012, 61 percent of the juvenile prison population were of Indigenous background.
  • The rate of incarceration of Indigenous juveniles is currently 21 percent higher than that recorded in 1994. Between these two years however, the rate has fluctuated. Specifically, the rate was lowest in the year 2000 at 272 per 100,000 population and peaked in 2008 at 514.
  • In 2012, the rate of incarceration of Indigenous juveniles was 460 per 100,000 population. Therefore, Indigenous juveniles were 32 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous juveniles.
  • Conversely, the rate of non-Indigenous juvenile incarceration has remained below 20 per 100,000 population since 2000. In 2012, there were 311 non-Indigenous juveniles in prisons; a rate of 15 per 100,000 population non-Indigenous juveniles.

Source: References 2, 25 and 26