UNSENTENCED PRISONERS IN AUSTRALIA
The increasing unsentenced prisoner population has been of great interest in recent years, especially to policy makers, researchers and the wider community. The ratio of unsentenced prisoners to total prisoners has steadily increased over the last ten years, from 12% in 1993 to 20% in 2003. The Analysis Branch and National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics is currently undertaking a project to investigate characteristics of the unsentenced prisoner population and the relationship between the size of the unsentenced prisoner population across states and time. Unsentenced prisoners include those who are unconvicted and awaiting a court hearing, convicted prisoners awaiting sentencing, and persons awaiting deportation.
Administrative data from Corrective Services, Australia (ABS cat. no. 4512.0) and Prisoners in Australia, (ABS cat. no. 4517.0) is being used to conduct both descriptive and multivariate analysis. A Poisson regression model has been used to better understand factors associated with the unsentenced prisoner population count assuming it has a Poisson probability distribution. The regression analysis showed that many operational, legislative and demographic differences between states and over time are significant in explaining changes in the unsentenced prisoner population.
The preliminary results from this analysis were recently presented at an Australian Institute of Criminology Conference. One of the issues raised at the conference about the analysis was related to the difficulties of analysing administrative data, especially data which is censored (the Prisoner Census gathers information on prisoners who are in custody on the 30th June each year, so prisoners who are not there on that day will be excluded from the data set). These difficulties had already been addressed in the conference paper as well as our presentation.
We are currently conducting further research and analysis to gain a deeper understanding of the unsentenced prisoner population and aim to present the final results in an ABS Research Paper which will be made available from the ABS website.
For further information, please contact, Sarah Dexter on (02) 6252 7246