Australian corrections: main demographic characteristics of prison populations


Understanding the demographics of the prison population is essential to good management. Changes in sentencing legislation and practices, and changes in levels and patterns of crime in the community have affected the demographic structure of the Australian prison population.

This paper gives a valuable insight into the demographic composition of the prison population and its changes over the ten years between 1988 and 1998. Among its findings are that the gender composition has remained stable; approximately 95 per cent of the prison population is male. It also finds that there has been an increase in the median age of the prison population—because prisoners are spending longer in prison and the age of admission to prison has increased. The study shows that three-quarters of prisoners were born in Australia but that there are differences in the structure of offences. Prisoners born in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Ireland are more commonly remanded or sentenced for violent offences. Drug offences contribute a significant proportion of prisoners born in other countries, in particular Vietnam and other Asian countries.