Australian Institute of Criminology

Skip to content

Chapter 5: 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. In 2012–13, there were 54,616 offenders in community-based corrective programs, which accounted for 64 percent of all offenders in any corrective program. The remaining 36 percent of offenders were in prison (n=30,149).

Source: Reference 10


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 30,775 persons were in custody in Australian prisons on 30 June 2013—a five percent increase on the number recorded in 2012. This corresponds to a rate of 172 per 100,000 of the adult population, which is an increase on the rate from the previous year. Of these prisoners, 23,335 were serving sentences, while 7,375 were on remand awaiting trial.

Source: Reference 9

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 9). 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 56 Prisoners by status, 2003–13 (per 100,000 persons)

Figure 056

  • In the past 10 years, the imprisonment rate per 100,000 adult population has increased by 10 percent from 156 per 100,000 population in 2003 to 172 per 100,000 population in 2013.
  • In 2013, the rate of prisoners on remand was 41 per 100,000 population, a five percent increase since 2012. Similarly, the rate of sentenced prisoners has increased from 128 per 100,000 population in 2012 to 130 per 100,000 population; a two percent increase.

Source: References 2 and 9


Figure 57 Prisoners by sex, 2003–13 (per 100,000 of that sex)

Figure 057

  • The 2013 male imprisonment rate (321 per 100,000 population) represents an increase of nine percent on the imprisonment rate recorded in 2003 (296 per 100,000 population).
  • The rate of female imprisonment increased by 24 percent over the same 10 year period, from 21 to 26 per 100,000.

Figure 58 Prisoners by age group and sex, 2013 (per 100,000 of that age group and sex)

Figure 058

  • In 2013, males accounted for 92 percent of all prisoners, while females accounted for eight percent of prisoners.
  • In 2013, across all age groups, the rate of male imprisonment was significantly greater than that of females. However, both rates were greatest in the 25–34 years age group, whereas males were imprisoned at a rate of 589 per 100,000 population and females at a rate of 51 per 100,000 population.
  • For males, the age group with the second highest rate of imprisonment in 2013 was the 18–24 years age group (448 per 100,000 population).
  • For females, the age group with the second highest rate of imprisonment was the 35–49 years age group. In this age group, females were imprisoned at a rate of 37 per 100,000 population.

Source: References 2 and 9

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 other offences such as public order and driving offences.

On 30 June 2013, the MSO for which 11,516 prisoners were sentenced was a violent offence. There were 3,760 prisoners whose MSO was a property offence and 8,060 prisoners who were sentenced for other MSOs.

Table 3 Most serious offence of prisoners sentenced in 2013 by sex
Male Female
n % n %
Homicide 2,144 10 187 11
Assault 3,722 17 252 15
Sex offences 2,928 14 34 2
Robbery 2,143 10 106 6
Break and enter 2,671 12 164 10
Other thefta 793 4 132 8
JGSOb 2,406 11 193 11
Drug offences 2,290 10 300 18
Fraud 429 2 178 10
Otherc 2,102 10 162 9
Total 21,628 100 1,708 100

a: Includes MVT

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

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 2013 was approximately 13 to one.
  • In 2013, adult male prisoners were more likely compared with female offenders to be sentenced for assault (17%), robbery (10%) and sex offences (14%). Females were more likely to be sentenced for drug offences (18%), fraud (10%) and theft (8%).
  • Adult males imprisoned for the violent offences of homicide, assault, sex offences, or robbery as their MSO accounted for half of all sentenced adult male prisoners in 2013 (51%).
  • One-third of sentenced adult female prisoners (34%) were imprisoned for violent offences.

Source: Reference 9

Indigenous status

Figure 59 Prisoners by Indigenous status, 2003–13 (per 100,000 population)

Figure 059

  • In 2013, the Indigenous imprisonment rate (2,359 per 100,000 population) was 19 times higher than the non-Indigenous rate (126 per 100,000 population).
  • Between 2003 and 2013, Indigenous imprisonment rates increased, while non-Indigenous decreased. The rate of Indigenous offender imprisonment is 29 percent higher than that recorded in 2003, while the rate of non-Indigenous offenders has decreased by three percent.
  • Indigenous prisoners comprised 27 percent of the total prisoner population in 2013, compared with 21 percent in 2003.

Source: References 2 and 9


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 2012–13, 40 percent had returned to prison under sentence by 30 June 2013, while 46 percent were returned to corrective services.

Source: Reference 10

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 4 Detainees previously imprisoned by selected current offences and Indigenous status, at 30 June 2013
Indigenous Non-Indigenous
n % n %
Homicide 506 57 2,317 32
AICI 2,856 79 3,378 55
Sexual assault 715 61 2,791 26
Robbery 831 74 2,161 61
UEWI 1,306 80 2,311 77
Theft 279 79 953 67
Illicit drug offences 147 63 3,437 33
Totala 8,431 77 22,215 51

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 506 Indigenous prisoners serving time for homicide in 2013, over half had a history of prior imprisonment (57%). Conversely, only 32 percent of non-Indigenous prisoners serving time for the same offence had a prior history of imprisonment.
  • Across all the offence categories, the history of prior imprisonment was higher for Indigenous prisoners than non-Indigenous prisoners. However, the proportions were similar for prisoners serving time for UEWI.
  • The proportion of non-Indigenous prisoners with a history of prior imprisonment was greater for UEWI (77%) and theft (67%) than any other offence.

Source: Reference 9

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 Four. Whereas in that chapter weekend detention and home detention are considered custodial sentences, this chapter includes them as community-based sentences.

In Australia during 2012–13, an average of 54,616 offenders were serving community corrections orders on any given day—a decrease of less than one percent from the number recorded in 2011–12. This corresponds to a rate of 305 per 100,000 adults, with 508 per 100,000 adult males and 107 per 100,000 adult females.

Source: References 2, 10 and 11

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 60 Average daily community corrections population by type of order, 2010–11 to 2012–13 (n)

Figure 060

  • There was little change in the number of supervision orders between 2010–11 and 2012–13.
  • Reparation orders continued to decrease from 13,100 in 2010–11 to 11,148 in 2012–13. This represents a decrease of 15 percent since 2010–11.
  • Eighty percent (n=46,236) of the average daily community corrections population were serving supervision orders in 2013.

Source: Reference 10

Figure 61 Successful completion of community corrections orders by type of order, 2010–11 to 2012–13 (%)

Figure 061

  • Between 2011–12 and 2012–13, the proportion of individuals completing restricted movement orders decreased by 11 percentage points from 84 percent to 74 percent.
  • The successful completion of reparation orders continued to increase from 66 percent in 2011–12 to 74 percent in 2012–13.

Source: Reference 10

Indigenous status

  • In 2012–13, 42,607 non-Indigenous and 11,044 Indigenous offenders served community corrections orders.

Figure 62 Average daily community corrections population by Indigenous status, 2002–03 to 2012–13 (per 100,000 of that status)

Figure 062

  • In 2012–13, Indigenous people were subject to community corrections orders at a rate of 3,091 per 100,000 Indigenous adult population compared with a rate of 243 per 100,000 for the non-Indigenous population.
  • The community corrections rates decreased by two percent for Indigenous people and three percent for non-Indigenous people between 2011–12 and 2012–13.
  • In 2012–13, Indigenous people were 13 times more likely to be serving time in community corrections than non-Indigenous people.

Source: References 2 and 10

Juvenile detention centres

The AIC maintained a data collection on the number of persons detained in juvenile detention centres from 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 2003 to 2013 is depicted in Figure 63 and includes those on remand and those sentenced.

Figure 63 Persons in juvenile detention centres by sexa, 2003–13 (per 100,000 of that sex per year)

Figure 063

a: Rates as at 30 June of each year

  • Male juveniles have been incarcerated at a much higher rate than female juvenile offenders. The rate of male juvenile incarceration recorded in 2013 (56 per 100,000 population) is nine percent higher than that recorded in 2003.
  • In 2013, 11 percent of the juvenile prison population was female. The rate of female juvenile incarceration has continued to remain below 10 per 100,000 population and in 2013 was eight per 100,000 population.

Source: Reference 12

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 2003 to 30 June 2013 for each quarter.

Figure 64 Persons in juvenile detention centres by Indigenous status, 31 March 2003 to 30 June 2013 (per 100,000 of that status per year)

Figure 064

  • The rate of incarceration of Indigenous juveniles in 2013 was 42 percent higher than that recorded in 2003.
  • In 2013, the rate of incarcerated Indigenous juveniles was 418 per 100,000 population compared with 14 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous juveniles. Indigenous juveniles were 30 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous juveniles.
  • The rate of non-Indigenous juvenile incarceration remained below 20 per 100,000 population between 2003 and 2013.

Source: References 2, 11 and 12