Australia – the penal colony as of 2016

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The Australian Bureau of Statistics notes the number of prisoners in adult corrective services custody increased by 8% from 36,134 prisoners at 30 June, 2015 to 38,845 at 30 June, 2016. The national imprisonment rate was 208 prisoners per 100,000 adult population, an increase of 6% from 196 prisoners per 100,000 adult population in 2015.

The number of unsentenced prisoners in adult corrective services custody increased by 22%, from 9,898 at 30 June, 2015 to 12,111 at 30 June, 2016. This follows a 21% increase from 2014 to 2015. Sentenced prisoners increased by 2% from 26,163 to 26,649 prisoners.

By State as at June 30, 2016

New South Wales

  • The number of adult prisoners in New South Wales prisons was 12,629, an increase of 7% (832 prisoners) from 2015.
  • New South Wales had the largest adult prisoner population nationally, accounting for 33% of the total Australian adult population.
  • The adult imprisonment rate was 211 prisoners per 100,000 adult population, an increase from 200 prisoners per 100,000 adult population in 2015.
  • Just over half (52% or 6,517 prisoners) of prisoners had previously been imprisoned under sentence.
  • The most common offence/charge was acts intended to cause injury (21% or 2,653 prisoners), followed by illicit drug offences (17% or 2,140 prisoners) and sexual assault (12% or 1,476 prisoners).

Victoria

  • The number of adult prisoners in Victorian prisons was 6,522, an increase of 5% (303 prisoners) from 2015.
  • The adult imprisonment rate was 138 prisoners per 100,000 adult population, an increase from 134 in 2015.
  • Half (50% or 3,246 prisoners) of all prisoners had previously been imprisoned under sentence.
  • The most common offence/charge was acts intended to cause injury (18% or 1,175 prisoners), followed by illicit drug offences (14% or 931 prisoners) and sexual assault (13% or 845 prisoners).

Queensland

  • The number of adult prisoners in Queensland prisons was 7,746, an increase of 6% (428 prisoners) from 2015.
  • The adult imprisonment rate was 206 prisoners per 100,000 adult population, an increase from 198 prisoners per 100,000 adult population in 2015.
  • Two-thirds (64% or 4,946 prisoners) of prisoners had previously been imprisoned under sentence.
  • The most common offence/charge was acts intended to cause injury (22% or 1,730 prisoners) followed by unlawful entry with intent (14% or 1,085 prisoners).

South Australia

  • The number of adult prisoners in South Australian prisons was 2,948, an increase of 8% (216 prisoners) since 2015.
  • The adult imprisonment rate was 219 prisoners per 100,000 adult population, an increase from 204 prisoners per 100,000 adult population in 2015.
  • Half of all prisoners (50% or 1,468 prisoners) had previously been imprisoned under sentence.
  • The most common offence/charge was acts intended to cause injury (18% or 534 prisoners), followed by sexual assault (13% or 374 prisoners) and offences against justice/government (12% or 350 prisoners). Of the 350 prisoners with an offence against justice/government, 195 were sentenced prisoners with an offence of breach of community based order.

Western Australia

  • The number of adult prisoners in Western Australian prisons was 6,329, an increase of 14% (774 prisoners) from 2015. This was the highest percentage increase in prisoners for all states and territories.
  • The adult imprisonment rate was 314 prisoners per 100,000 adult population, an increase from 278 prisoners per 100,000 adult population in 2015.
  • Three in five prisoners (60% or 3,783 prisoners) had previously been imprisoned under sentence.
  • The most common offence/charge was acts intended to cause injury (20% or 1,258 prisoners), followed by unlawful entry with intent (16% or 1,037 prisoners) and illicit drug offences (13% or 800 prisoners).

Tasmania

  • The number of adult prisoners in Tasmanian prisons was 569, an increase of 10% (50 prisoners) from 2015.
  • The adult imprisonment rate was 141 prisoners per 100,000 adult population, an increase from 130 prisoners per 100,000 adult population in 2015.
  • Just over three in five prisoners (61% or 349 prisoners) had previously been imprisoned under sentence.
  • The most common offence/charge was acts intended to cause injury (21% or 118 prisoners), followed by homicide (12% or 66 prisoners).

Australian Capital Territory

  • The number of adult prisoners in Australian Capital Territory prisons was 441, an increase of 11% (45 prisoners) from 2015.
  • The adult imprisonment rate was 144 prisoners per 100,000 adult population, an increase from 131 prisoners per 100,000 adult population in 2015.
  • Nearly three-quarters of prisoners (74% or 324 prisoners) had previously been imprisoned under sentence. This was the largest proportion of any state or territory (the national average was 56%).
  • The most common offence/charge was acts intended to cause injury (27% or 120 prisoners), followed by sexual assault (12% or 51 prisoners).

Northern Territory

  • The number of adult prisoners in Northern Territory prisons was 1,666, an increase of 5% (73 prisoners) from 2015.
  • The adult imprisonment rate was 923 prisoners per 100,000 adult population, an increase from 885 prisoners per 100,000 adult population at 30 June 2015. The Northern Territory continues to have the highest imprisonment rate of any state or territory, with the national rate in 2016 averaging 208 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.
  • Seven in ten prisoners (72% or 1,194 prisoners) had previously been imprisoned under sentence.
  • The most common offence/charge was acts intended to cause injury (46% or 769 prisoners) followed by sexual assault (11% or 187 prisoners).

Looking at repeat offenders, we note that Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders have a disproportionately higher rate than non-indigenous categories, especially men.

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Although Australian prisoners make up around 79% of all inmates, “foreign born” prisoners by background show the following statistics. While Muslims represent around 2.2% of the Australian population, they represent around 14% of foreign born prisoners. Lebanon, Sudan and Iraq make up the largest components relative. Looking at the Asian population at 12% of total, they average around 25% of the foreign-born prison population. Vietnam, HK and China are the main perpetrators.  The ABS do not break down ethnicity of children born to migrants.

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It seems that physical assault, illicit drug and sexual offenses top most states and incarceration rates continue to rise in every state and territory.

In summary, while the numbers for both sentenced and unsentenced prisoners have continued to rise, the unsentenced population has grown at a faster rate.

Ten years ago, one in five prisoners was unsentenced, whereas now, the unsentenced population has grown to account for one third of all prisoners.

Over half (55 per cent) of all unsentenced prisoners had an offence of either acts intended to cause injury (29 per cent), illicit drug offences (15 per cent) or unlawful entry with intent (11 per cent).

One in four unsentenced prisoners identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

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