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4517.0 - Prisoners in Australia, 2009 Quality Declaration 
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 10/12/2009   
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EXPLANATORY NOTES


INTRODUCTION

1 This publication presents information about prisoners held in custody in Australian prisons at 30 June 2009. A range of information is presented on the demographic and legal characteristics of prisoners such as age, sex, country of birth, Indigenous status, legal status, most serious offence/charge and length of sentence being served.

2 The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has developed national standards for corrective services statistics to ensure the comparability of data between states and territories. While efforts have been made to attain maximum comparability between states and territories, some issues with jurisdictional comparability remain due to different legislative and administrative recording practices in the states and territories. Further detail on these differences is provided in paragraphs 79-97 and in the Technical Note.


REFERENCE PERIOD

3 The National Prisoner Census is a census of all persons in the legal custody of adult corrective services in all states and territories as at midnight 30 June 2009.


SCOPE

4 The scope of the statistics in this publication includes all persons remanded or sentenced to adult custodial corrective services agencies in each state and territory in Australia.

5 Included in the National Prisoner Census are prisoners in the legal custody of corrective services but who, at the time of the census, were:

  • absent on an authorised temporary leave permit
  • absent from the correctional facility on a work release permit or program
  • located in secure wards in a hospital outside the correctional facility
  • periodic detainees.

6 Excluded from the collection are:
  • prisoners who were unlawfully absent from corrective services legal custody, e.g. escapees or prisoners who failed to return from an authorised temporary absence from a correctional facility
  • prisoners whose legal custody had been transferred to another agency, e.g. police or mental health institutions.

7 The count of periodic detainees covers the number of persons with an active periodic detainee warrant. However, periodic detainees who have breached orders may be excluded. From 2006, Australian Capital Territory data excludes breaches of orders greater than three months.


Types of facilities

8 The types of correctional facilities and programs where prisoners are held varies between the states and territories.

9 Included in the collection are:
  • gazetted adult prisons in all jurisdictions
  • periodic detention centres in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory
  • community custody centres and work camps in Queensland
  • cells in court complexes administered by corrective services in New South Wales
  • transitional centres in New South Wales
  • lock-ups in Western Australia operated by the police but designated as a prison by the Chief Executive Officer of Corrective Services
  • gazetted police prisons in the Northern Territory which are administered and controlled by the Director of Corrective Services.

10 Excluded from the collection are persons held in facilities administered and controlled by other agencies:
  • police lock-ups, police prisons and cells in court complexes
  • immigration detention centres
  • home detention programs
  • military prisons
  • mental health facilities
  • juvenile facilities, including those under the authority of adult corrective services.


Age

11 In all states and territories except Queensland, persons remanded or sentenced to adult custody are aged 18 years and over. Persons under 18 years are treated as juveniles in most Australian courts and are only remanded or sentenced to custody in adult prisons in exceptional circumstances. In Queensland 'adult' refers to persons aged 17 years and over.


DATA SOURCE

12 Statistics in this publication are derived from information on each prisoner collected by the ABS from administrative records held by corrective services agencies within each state and territory.


JURISDICTION OF CUSTODY

13 Persons included in the National Prisoner Census were counted in the state or territory in which they were held in custody regardless of which state or territory imposed the sentence being served.


INDIGENOUS IDENTIFICATION

14 The ABS conducts an ongoing program of quality assurance to monitor and improve the quality of Indigenous Status data in corrective cervices agencies. Whilst the ABS has published Indigenous status data in Prisoners in Australia for a number of years, quality assurance is required to better understand the level of accuracy over time.

15 The quality of the Indigenous status information collected and recorded in corrective services agencies is assessed against the ABS Standard Indigenous Question (SIQ). The SIQ is based upon self-identification by the individual who comes into contact with corrective services agencies. The SIQ requires individuals to be asked “Are you of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin?”. The answers to the SIQ can be ‘No’, ‘Yes, Aboriginal’, or ‘Yes, Torres Strait Islander’. If the offender is of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin, both responses should be identified. If an offender does not supply an answer to this question, or is not asked, the Indigenous status field should be recorded as 'not stated'.

16 For custodial corrections, current indications are that corrective services agencies in all states and territories, except Western Australia, ask the SIQ as described above.

17 Some persons in custody are recorded with an unknown Indigenous status on the information systems of corrective services agencies as their status has not been able to be obtained. Unknowns accounted for 1.3% of all records in 2009.


IMPRISONMENT RATES

18 Imprisonment rates enable comparison of prisoner populations across states and territories at a point in time, as well as over time. Prisoner rates are expressed per 100,000 adult population, which is in accord with international, state and territory practices.

19 From the 2006 issue of this publication, the adult population figures used in the calculation of rates are for persons aged 18 years and over for all states and territories except for Queensland, where the adult population used is that of persons aged 17 years and over (see paragraph 11). For the 2004 and 2005 issues of this publication, the adult population figures used in the calculation of rates were for persons aged 18 years and over for all states and territories, except for Victoria and Queensland, where the adult population used was that of persons aged 17 years and over. In issues prior to 2004, rates for all states and territories included in this publication were calculated using adult population figures for persons aged 17 years and over.

20 Imprisonment rate data for the Australian Capital Territory are calculated on the basis of the total number of Australian Capital Territory prisoners held in New South Wales prisons (prior to 2009) as well as in the Australian Capital Territory. New South Wales imprisonment rates data are only based on the count of New South Wales prisoners held in New South Wales prisons. For more information about Australian Capital Territory prisoners held in New South Wales prisons refer Explanatory Notes, paragraph 96.

21 Rates for the adult prisoner population are calculated using the estimated resident population (ERP) for each of the states and territories, and total Australia (see Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0)). All estimates and projections for the Australian Capital Territory exclude Jervis Bay Territory. All estimates and projections for Australia exclude the external territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

22 As the population changes over time the denominator used for the calculation of rates varies, depending on the reference period. The ERP series are revised every five years to incorporate additional information available from the latest Census of Population and Housing. The rates per 100,000 adult persons (excluding Indigenous rates) presented in this issue are based on the following ERPs:
  • Rates for 1999 to 2001 use final ERP data based on the 2001 Census of Population and Housing;
  • Rates for 2002 to 2006 use final ERP data based on the 2006 Census of Population and Housing;
  • Rates for 2007 are based on the revised ERP data derived from the 2006 Census of Population and Housing;
  • Rates for 2008 and 2009 are preliminary ERP data based on the 2006 Census of Population and Housing.

23 For population estimates and information on the methodology used to produce the ERP, see Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0). Data are sourced from the March 2009 release of this same issue.

24 A change to the way in which national imprisonment rate data for prisoners aged under 18 is calculated was made in this issue. Previously the denominator used was the ERP for Queensland, as most prisoners aged under 17 are in custody in Queensland due to their different adult definition. From the 2009 issue, the ERP used to derive this data item is now based on the national ERP for persons aged 17 years of age which is a more accurate representation of this population group. This affects data in Tables 2.3 and 4.4.


Country of birth

25 Imprisonment rates by birthplace are calculated using data for June 2008 ERP by Country of Birth from Migration, Australia 2007-08 (cat. no. 3412.0).


Indigenous imprisonment rates

26 Rates for the Indigenous and non-Indigenous adult population have been revised in this issue due to the rebasing of estimates and projections for the Indigenous population in September 2009. Rebased estimates (for the period 1986-2006) and projections (2007-2021) of the Indigenous population are based on data from the 2006 Census of Population and Housing and use assumptions about future fertility, paternity, life expectancy at birth and migration.

27 The data supersede previously published ABS estimates and projections and, as a result, Indigenous imprisonment rates previously published in Prisoners in Australia for the years 1999-2008 have been revised accordingly.

28 The projections used in this issue are based on Series B, which is one of two main projection series (Series A and B) that have been published for the years 2007 to 2021. Both of these series assume an annual decline of 0.5% in fertility rates; an annual increase of 1% in paternity rates; constant interstate migration at levels observed in the 2006 Census; and zero net overseas migration with no arrivals and no departures. Two different assumptions were made about future Indigenous life expectancy at birth for Australia:
  • in Series A, Indigenous life expectancy at birth will remain constant at 67.3 years for males and 73.0 years for females for the duration of the projection period; and
  • in Series B, Indigenous life expectancy at birth will increase by 0.3 years per year for both males and females, reaching 72.1 years for males and 77.8 years for females by 2021. This equates to an increase in life expectancy at birth of 5 years over the 15 year projection period for both males and females.

29 The impact of re-basing Indigenous imprisonment rate data using Series B projections is small at the national level, with some differences more apparent in the state and territory data. The decision to use Series B as the denominator in the calculation of Indigenous imprisonment rates for Prisoners in Australia followed consultation with the National Corrective Services Statistics Advisory Group and other stakeholders.

30 For further information see Experimental Estimates and Projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 1991 to 2021 (cat. no. 3238.0).


Age standardisation of imprisonment rates

31 Age standardisation is a statistical method that adjusts crude rates to account for age differences between study populations.

32 There are differences in the age distributions between Australia's Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations with the former having a much younger population. In 2001, the proportion of Indigenous people aged 18 years and over was 54.6%, compared with 75.8% of non-Indigenous people (and 75.3% of the total Australian population). The diagram below illustrates the differences in age distributions.

33 ESTIMATED RESIDENT POPULATION, AUSTRALIA - 30 JUNE 2001

Diagram: Estimated resident population, Australia - 30 June 2001

34 Due to these differing age profiles, using crude rates to examine differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations may lead to erroneous conclusions being drawn about variables that are correlated with age.

35 By making comparisons across age groups, we know that imprisonment rates decrease in older age groups, i.e. that the imprisonment rate is correlated with age. If we compare overall imprisonment rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons, it is likely that the imprisonment rate in the Indigenous population will be higher because of the larger proportion of young people in the Indigenous population.

36 Age standardised Indigenous and non-Indigenous imprisonment rates have been presented in Tables 3.3 and 4.2 of this publication. Ratios of the rates are also included in these tables. The standard population against which each population is age standardised is the total Australian Estimated Resident Population at 30 June 2001. The standard population is revised every ten years; the next revision will be based on data from the 2011 Census.


CLASSIFICATIONS

Australian Standard Offence Classification

37 The offence categories used for national corrective services statistics in this publication are classified to the division level of the Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC), 2008 (Second edition) (cat. no. 1234.0). Offence information in previous issues was based on the Australian Standard Offence Classification, 1997 (cat. no. 1234.0). ASOC provides a national framework for classifying offences for statistical purposes, and was first released in 1997. In 2008 the ABS released the second edition of ASOC, which reflects changes that have occurred in criminal legislation since the first edition was released, as well as satisfying emerging user requirements for offence data.

38 For this issue, six jurisdictions (New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory) provided offence data based on ASOC08. The offence data for Queensland and Western Australia are based on ASOC97. Further information about the effects of changing to ASOC08 is presented in the Technical Note.

39 Some corrective services agencies have not fully implemented any version of ASOC. Data from these jurisdictions are coded to the defunct Australian National Classification of Offences (ANCO), 1985 (cat. no. 1234.0). ANCO data is mapped by jurisdictions to the relevant ASOC category. Where there is no direct concordance between the two classifications, the ANCO codes have been mapped as closely as possible to the relevant ASOC categories.


National Offence Index

40 The National Offence Index (NOI) is a ranking of all ASOC groups and supplementary ASOC codes (ASOC divisions and/or ASOC subdivisions). This ranking is based on the concept of seriousness of offence, with a ranking of 1 relating to the ASOC code containing the most serious offence. The NOI was introduced into the Prisoners collection in 2006, and was revised in 2009 to accommodate the changes made in ASOC08. The NOI is used to determine the most serious charge for unsentenced prisoners in all states and territories, except Western Australia, and determining the most serious offence in Tasmania due to the use of global sentencing. For further information about determining the most serious charge in Western Australia, see paragraph 77, and for global sentencing in Tasmania see paragraph 75.


Standard Australian Classification of Countries

41 Country of birth information is classified according to the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), Second Edition (cat. no. 1269.0).


COUNTING METHODOLOGY

Episode

42 An episode is defined as the period from an offender's latest date of reception into the custody of a corrective services agency for a particular offence(s)/charge(s) until the person is released from custody. When a prisoner breaches parole conditions and is returned to custody, a new episode is deemed to have commenced and a new reception date is provided. Differences in the application of this rule occur in Western Australia. Further detail on these differences is provided in paragraph 64.

43 In consultation with the National Corrective Services Statistics Advisory Group, the definition of episode changed from the 2003 Prisoner Census to maximise data comparability across states and territories. There was no change to the data provided by New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory as these jurisdictions had always provided data based on the definition of an episode as outlined in paragraph 42. These jurisdictions accounted for 65% of the prisoner population in 2002. Prior to 2003, Queensland, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory treated persons who breached parole and returned to custody as continuing a prior episode. These jurisdictions now provide data based on the standard definition of episode. In Western Australia, as noted in the previous paragraph, there remain differences in the application of the national counting rule. As the revised definition of episode only impacts on prisoners who have breached parole, the impact of this change in definition on time series data is low at the national level.


Legal status

44 The legal status of an offender is determined by the warrant(s) or court order(s) which provide the legal basis for the detention in custody of the offender. Some offenders may have more than one type of warrant issued against them; therefore it is possible for an offender to have dual status (e.g. under sentence for some offences and awaiting appeal results for others, or under sentence and awaiting deportation). The counting rules for determining the legal status of an offender are as follows:
  • If the prisoner has been sentenced for any offence then this takes precedence over any other offence(s)/charge(s) for which the prisoner is unsentenced.
  • If the sentenced prisoner has appealed against all of his/her sentences then that prisoner is counted as under sentence.


Aggregate sentence

45 The aggregate sentence is the longest period that the convicted prisoner may be detained for the current sentenced offences in the current episode. Charges pending which are likely to extend the current episode are ignored. Where a new episode is counted when a person returns to prison from a breach of parole, the unexpired sentence of the prior episode is usually incorporated into the aggregate sentence for the new episode.


Expected time to serve

46 The expected time to serve is the period of imprisonment which a convicted prisoner is expected to serve and in most cases refers to the time between the date of reception for this episode (see paragraphs 42-43) and the earliest date of release for sentenced prisoners.

47 Date of reception is defined as the date the prisoner was received into prison in a state or territory for the current episode. Counting rules for persons returning to custody from an escape attempt or parole are as follows:
  • If an offender escapes from custody and is recaptured and returned to custody, the date of reception is the date the person originally entered into custody prior to the escape
  • If parole is revoked resulting in an offender returning to custody, the date of reception is the date the person was returned to custody. That is, a new episode is deemed to have commenced.

48 There are some state and territory variations:
  • In Tasmania, if an offender escapes from custody and is recaptured and returned to custody, the date of reception is the date the person was returned to custody. That is, a new episode is deemed to have commenced
  • In Western Australia, if an offender is returned to prison as a result of a parole breach the date of reception is the original reception date (see paragraph 64).

49 The minimum term is the period that must be served before the prisoner is eligible for release from custody to parole, and the difference between the maximum and minimum term is the period that will be served on parole if the prisoner is released at his or her earliest eligibility date. While parole is generally granted at the earliest eligibility date, prisoners may be denied parole for some or all of the period up to the expiry of their maximum term. For both fixed and maximum-minimum sentences, the period actually served in custody may be less than the stated time to serve where administrative mechanisms such as sentence remissions are applied.

50 The time a prisoner is expected to serve in custody depends upon the sentence(s) originally handed down, the system of remissions and the forms of parole available in the various states and territories and whether any time was spent in custody prior to reception (for example, time on remand or in police custody). The rules governing date of release are complex and differ between the states and territories. The calculation of the earliest date of release in each state and territory is described in paragraphs 51-69.

New South Wales

51 In New South Wales significant legislative amendments came into force on 3 April 2000, repealing a number of Acts of Parliament which were administered by the Department of Corrective Services, namely:
  • Correctional Centres Act 1952
  • Sentencing Act 1989
  • Periodic Detention of Prisoners Act 1981
  • Home Detention Act 1996
  • Community Service Orders Act 1979.

52 These Acts were replaced by the following:
  • Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999
  • Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999.

53 The consolidation of the sentencing legislation into two Acts was achieved with only minor changes of substance to existing law. Under current legislation a court, in setting a term of imprisonment, is required to first set a 'Non-Parole' period and then a 'Sentence' period. Alternatively a court may decline to set a 'Non-Parole' period. These sentences are referred to as 'Sentence/Non-Parole' and 'Sentence/Parole declined' sentence types respectively.

54 Those prisoners with a sentence of three years or less, being a sentence that has a non-parole period, are automatically released from custody at the expiry of the non-parole term. Those with a non-parole term greater than three years may be released by the NSW Parole Board at any time after serving the non-parole term.

Victoria

55 In Victoria, the calculation of expected time to serve is based on either the non-parole period set by court or the aggregate sentence. Time spent in detention prior to the commencement of the sentence counts toward the time expected to be served under sentence. Under the provisions of the Sentencing Act 1991 (as amended), the sentencing rules in Victoria are as follows:
  • If a sentence of Life or a term of two years or more is imposed, the court must fix a period during which the offender is not eligible to be released on parole, unless it considers that the nature of the offence or the past history of the offender make the fixing of such a period inappropriate.
  • If a sentence of less than two years but not less than one year is imposed, the court may set a non-parole period.
  • The non-parole period must be at least six months less than the term of imprisonment and must be in respect of the aggregate sentence that the offender is liable to serve under all the sentences imposed.

56 Expected time to serve is not calculated for prisoners sentenced to an Indefinite term or to Life where no minimum term has been fixed.

Queensland

57 In Queensland, with the exception of sentences of indefinite length such as Life, earliest release date calculations are based on the date an offender was eligible for parole.

58 Release dates are calculated as follows:
  • Unless otherwise specified by the court, the parole eligibility date is at 80% of the aggregate sentence length for serious violent offenders and half the aggregate sentence length for others.
  • The Corrective Services Act 2006 (Qld) commenced on 26 August 2006. One key provision in the new legislation relates to the management of offenders subject to Court-ordered Parole. This new order provides courts with the power to specify a parole release date for persons who are sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 3 years or less.
  • The earliest discharge date indicates when an offender might be discharged if remissions on each term of imprisonment are granted. For those prisoners ineligible for remission, this date would be the same as the full-time discharge date.
  • The revised Corrective Services Act 2000 (Qld) commenced on 1 July 2001. Offenders convicted of an offence that was committed on or after 1 July 2001 and sentenced to a term of imprisonment are not eligible to have that term remitted. Offenders convicted of an offence that was committed prior to the commencement of this Act and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of two months or more are eligible to be considered for a remission of up to one-third of that term of imprisonment. This provision was extinguished by the Corrective Services Act 2006 (Qld).
  • Prisoners with life sentences are eligible to apply for parole:
      • if the prisoner is serving a life sentence under the Criminal Code section 305(2)15 - once the prisoner has served 20 years or longer
      • if the prisoner is serving a life sentence under another code - once the prisoner has served 15 years.

South Australia

59 In South Australia, the Truth in Sentencing legislation implemented on 1 August 1994 changed the way in which release dates are calculated in comparison to previous years. The major changes to the sentencing legislation affected by the Truth in Sentencing were: the abolition of remissions; the requirement for prisoners with an aggregate sentence of five years or more to formally apply to the Parole Board for release on parole; the ability of the Parole Board to release prisoners with an aggregate sentence of five years or more at its discretion; and directions for the judiciary to take the abolition of remissions into account when ordering sentences. Prisoners with a non-parole period (NPP) and an aggregate sentence of less than five years continue to be paroled automatically. Release dates for prisoners are now calculated as follows:
  • Where a prisoner has not had a NPP, the earliest date of release is the aggregate sentence end date.
  • Where a prisoner has a NPP and an aggregate sentence of less than five years, the earliest date of release is the end date of the NPP.
  • Where a prisoner has a NPP, and an aggregate sentence of five years or more, the earliest date of release is the earliest date the prisoner can be released by the Parole Board. If this date has expired and no further release date has been set by the Parole Board, the earliest date of release becomes the aggregate sentence end date, which in the case of Life or Other indeterminate sentences would be unknown.

Western Australia

60 In Western Australia, expected time to serve is determined differently depending on whether sentences are less than 12 months or sentences are 12 months or more.

Sentences less than 12 months

61 For sentences less than 12 months expected time to serve is determined as follows:
  • Before 31 August 2003: the expected time to serve is calculated between the sentence start date and the two-thirds time date or effective date of release (EDR).
  • On or after 31 August 2003: the calculation of the expected time to serve is based on half of the maximum sentence as the prisoner may be released on Short Term Parole at the Earliest Eligibility date (EED) after serving 50% of the sentence.

Sentences 12 months or more

62 For sentences 12 months or more expected time to serve is determined as follows:
  • Sentence Imposed before 31 August 2003:
      • Where no parole term is specified, the minimum sentence is calculated between the sentence start date and the two-thirds time date or effective date of release (EDR). If that Minimum Sentence is more than 12 months, the prisoner will be eligible for release on a Re-Entry Release Order (release is subject to approval by the Prisoners Review), and the expected time to serve is calculated up till the Re-Entry Release Eligibility date (RRED). If the Minimum Sentence is 12 months or less, the expected time to serve is calculated between the sentence start date and the two-thirds time date or effective date of release (EDR).
      • Where a parole term has been specified, the minimum sentence is calculated between the sentence start date and the Earliest Eligibility Date (EED). If that Minimum Sentence is more than 12 months, the prisoner will be eligible for release on a Re-Entry Release Order (release is subject to approval by the Prisoners Review Board), and the expected time to serve is calculated up till the Re-Entry Release Eligibility date (RRED). If that Minimum Sentence is 12 months or less, the expected time to serve is calculated between the sentence start date and the Earliest Eligibility Date (EED).
  • Sentence Imposed on or after 31 August 2003:
      • Where no parole term is specified:
          • For sentences equalling 12 months, the prisoner must serve the full term and the expected time to serve is calculated up till the sentence expiry date (maximum date).
          • For sentences greater than 12 months the prisoner will be eligible for release on a Re-Entry Release Order (release is subject to approval by the Prisoners Review), and the expected time to serve is calculated up till the Re-Entry Release Eligibility date (RRED).
      • Where a parole term has been specified:
          • For prisoners sentenced before 29 January 2007, the minimum sentence is calculated between the sentence start date and the Earliest Eligibility Date (EED)
          • If that Minimum Sentence is more than 12 months, the prisoner will be eligible for release on a Re-Entry Release Order (release is subject to approval by the Prisoners Review Board), and the expected time to serve is calculated up till the Re-Entry Release Eligibility date (RRED).
          • If that Minimum Sentence is 12 months or less, the expected time to serve is calculated between the sentence start date and the Earliest Eligibility Date (EED)
          • Prisoners sentenced to a parole term on or after 29 January 2007 are not eligible for release on a Re-Entry Release Order and the expected time to serve is calculated between the sentence start date and the Earliest Eligibility Date (EED).

63 If EED or RRED have passed, any release date set by the Prisoners Review Board is taken into account. If the Prisoners Review Board has not set a release date but has set a review date, that review date is used. If there are no such dates, the EDR (for sentences imposed before 31 August 2003 and) or sentence expiry date (for sentences imposed on/after 31 August 2003) is used.

64 Where prisoners were returned to prison partly or wholly as a result of breach or suspension of early release orders, a new episode is not deemed to have commenced and the date of reception is based on the date the person originally entered into custody, prior to being released on the early release order. Therefore, time spent in prison for the original sentence has continued to be included in the calculation of expected time to serve and aggregate sentence length data and may result in a higher mean and median duration for these data items in comparison with other states and territories (see paragraph 71). In light of legislative changes effective from 31 August 2003, it is essential for Western Australia to have a continuous series of comparable information to enable the monitoring and evaluation of the impact of the legislation, therefore it cannot comply with the current ABS counting rule.

Tasmania

65 In Tasmania the calculation of expected time to serve is based on the totality of the sentence liable to be served minus one-third, but shall not operate so as to reduce the sentence below three months.

66 From 1 October 2002, as a result of legislative change, the courts are required to set a term of imprisonment comprising a maximum term and a minimum term. Prior to the legislative change, the courts set a fixed term of imprisonment.

Northern Territory

67 In the Northern Territory sentence remissions for new prisoners were abolished on 1 July 1996. Expected time to serve is therefore calculated as follows:
  • Prisoners whose sentences commenced prior to 1 July 1996 will be discharged with one-third remissions or at the expiry of the non-parole period, as approved by the Northern Territory Parole Board. If the parole date has elapsed, the date eligible for remission is used (if applicable) or else the full-term expiry date is used.
  • Prisoners sentenced after 1 July 1996 have an expected time to serve based on their non-parole period (if this date has elapsed the EDR becomes the full-term expiry date), a fixed release date or an earliest release date based on a suspension of sentence after a set period of time.

68 Following the commencement of the Sentencing (Crime of Murder) and Parole Reform Act 2003 (NT) on 11 February 2004, prisoners receiving or currently serving a mandatory life sentence for murder can now be considered for release on parole after serving 20 or 25 years. Prior to sentencing legislation amendments in 2004, prisoners sentenced for murder were given a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of receiving an earliest date of release, e.g. parole.

Australian Capital Territory

69 Prisoners sentenced in the Australian Capital Territory and who were held in New South Wales prisons were subject to New South Wales calculations for date of release. As at 30 June 2009, Australian Capital Territory prisoners were no longer held in New South Wales prisons.


Impact of indeterminate sentences

70 While all states and territories have access to indeterminate sentences as a sentencing option, the degree to which that sentencing option is utilised varies considerably across states and territories, particularly for homicide. This can impact on mean and median aggregate sentence length and expected time to serve data as prisoners with an indeterminate sentence are excluded from these calculations. For 2009, at least half of prisoners with a most serious offence of homicide had an indeterminate sentence in Western Australia (63%), South Australia (63%) and Queensland (50%). For the Australian Capital Territory, the proportion was closer to the national average of 26%. However, the proportions in the remaining states of New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and the Northern Territory were 10% or less.


Mean/median sentence length and time on remand

71 Calculations of mean and median sentence lengths and time on remand are affected by the reference period used. For the Prisoner Census, information relates to the characteristics of prisoners at a point in time (the night of 30 June), rather than the total prisoner population during the year. During a year, a large proportion of prisoners who go through the prison system serve short sentences (i.e. less than a year) or are on remand for shorter periods of time, while at any point in time the majority tend to be prisoners serving longer sentences or who have been on remand for long periods of time. The impact of this is that when the total population of prisoners during a year is considered, the large number of short sentences and short periods of time on remand will result in lower mean and median sentence length and time on remand values compared with means and medians calculated from point in time data.

72 Mean and median aggregate sentence length exclude indeterminate, life with a minimum and periodic detention sentences.

73 Between 1995 and 2001, prisoners who had a 'Life with minimum' sentence were not included as part of the calculation of the mean and median sentence lengths for prisoners' expected time to serve in prison. From 2002 they have been included. Their inclusion has slightly increased the mean for the expected time to serve, but has had a negligible impact on the median value for expected time to serve.


MOST SERIOUS OFFENCE/CHARGE

Sentenced prisoners

74 For sentenced prisoners in all states and territories except Tasmania, the Most Serious Offence (MSO) is the offence for which the prisoner has received the longest sentence in the current episode for a single count of the offence, regardless of the possible result of any appeals, and regardless of whether the sentence for that offence has actually expired at census date. Where sentences are equal, or the longest sentence cannot be determined, the MSO is the offence with the lowest (numerical) Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC) code. For example, if a prisoner has two offences coded at the ASOC Group level: 0711 Unlawful entry with intent, and 0412 Dangerous or negligent driving, the MSO would be allocated as 0412 Dangerous or negligent driving, as this is the lowest ASOC code.

75 In Tasmania, magistrates and judges have the capacity to provide global sentencing, i.e. a combined sentence for all offences. An individual offence will not have an identified period of imprisonment, so it is not possible to identify the offence with the longest period of imprisonment. The MSO is therefore determined by applying the National Offence Index (NOI).

76 From 2004, the MSO for prisoners who have breached parole and returned to prison is determined only from the breach offence and any new offence(s) committed while on parole (the original MSO is excluded from the determination). This differs in Western Australia where offences from previous episodes are considered in the selection of MSO, due to the episode definition applied by Western Australia (see paragraph 64).


Unsentenced prisoners

77 Prior to 2006, all states and territories applied the Most Serious Charge (MSC) for unsentenced prisoners by determining the charge which carries the longest statutory maximum penalty. From 2006, the NOI has been used by Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. From 2007, the Northern Territory also applied the NOI, and in 2008, New South Wales introduced it. Western Australia continues to apply the charge which carries the longest statutory maximum penalty; where penalties are equal, the MSC is the charge with the lowest ANCO code. There are some state and territory variations:
  • In New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, if a prisoner is convicted but as yet unsentenced for at least one charge, the MSC is selected from those offences for which convictions have been recorded.
  • In Western Australia the MSC is always determined by calculating the lowest ANCO Code.


COURT OF SENTENCE/REMAND

78 The court of sentence/remand data (available in Publication Datacubes 4, 11 and 12) refer to whether the offender was sentenced or remanded to custody by the Supreme Court, the District or County Court or the Lower Courts such as the Magistrates' or Children's Courts. The rules adopted for coding the level of court are:
  • Where an episode comprises orders/sentences of various levels of court, the level of court relating to the most serious offence (MSO) is recorded.
  • An appeal court is recorded when it has altered the length of sentence of the MSO/charge.
  • For prisoners not under sentence, the level of court which has issued the most recent remand in custody warrant is recorded.
  • Prisoners held under a Department of Immigration order or under the authority of the Parole Board are recorded as 'other'.


DATA COMPARABILITY AND SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

79 National corrections statistics are compiled in order to maximise comparability across states and territories. Although differences have been overcome through the introduction of national standards, some legislative, interpretive and processing differences remain.


New South Wales

80 In New South Wales, the Kariong juvenile facility operates under the authority of Adult Corrective Services. These prisoners are excluded from this collection.

81 In September 2007, NSW opened the Wellington Correctional Centre. The focus of this facility is to accommodate maximum security prisoners from across NSW, as well as prisoners with lower security classifications from surrounding areas.

82 In September 2006, NSW opened the Compulsory Drug Treatment Correctional Centre (CDTCC). The CDTCC is an interagency endeavour - primarily between the Department of Corrective Services, Justice Health and the Attorney-General's Department. A multidisciplinary team at the Centre ensures treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration of male participants who have repeatedly offended in order to support a drug dependence.

83 Amendments to the Bail Amendment (Repeat Offenders) Act 2002 restrict the availability of bail for three classes of defendant:
  • those accused of having committed another offence while on bail or parole, or serving a sentence for another offence;
  • those who have a previous conviction for absconding on bail; and
  • those who are charged with an indictable offence who already stand convicted of an earlier indictable offence. The movement seen in Weapons offences (Division 11) was unexpected and was attributable to coding improvements made in NSW at that time.


Victoria

84 The Judy Lazarus Transition Centre was opened in April 2007. The Centre provides a supervised pathway back into society for selected male prisoners nearing the end of their sentence.

85 In March 2006, Victoria opened Marngoneet Correctional Centre, Lara. The focus of this facility is to provide intensive treatment and offender management programs for males that have a minimum of six months of their sentence left to serve when they arrive there. The Metropolitan Remand Centre at Ravenhall was opened in April 2006. This facility provides increased capacity to hold prisoners awaiting trial or sentencing.

86 On 1 July 2005, the Children and Young Persons (Age Jurisdiction) Act 2004 came into force in Victoria. This Act changed the definition of a child from a person under 17 years of age to a person under 18 years of age. As a consequence the definition of an adult also changed for corrective services data to a person aged 18 years and over. Data prior to 2006 includes persons aged 17 years.

87 For 2002 and previous years, when a prisoner was held on remand and then sentenced to a term of imprisonment as part of the one episode, the time on remand was considered a separate episode of imprisonment for the purposes of determining whether a prisoner had known prior adult imprisonment. This practice was inconsistent with the national counting rule for the Prisoner Census and resulted in an inflated number (and proportion) of Victoria's prisoner population with known prior adult imprisonment under sentence. From 2003 the national counting rule was adopted for recording known prior adult imprisonment in Victoria.


Queensland

88 The Corrective Services Act 2006 (Qld) commenced on 26 August 2006. One key provision in the new legislation relates to the management of offenders subject to Court-ordered Parole. This new order ensures that offenders serve 100% of their sentence under supervision, either in a correctional centre or under community supervision. This new order provides courts with the power to specify a parole release date for persons who are sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 3 years or less. Court-ordered Parole is not available to sex offenders or serious violent offenders.

89 In September 2005, Queensland implemented a new offender management system - the Integrated Offender Management System (IOMS). As a consequence prior imprisonment data were understated. The ABS imputed prior imprisonment data for 2006 and 2007 as an interim measure. During 2008 changes were implemented to the IOMS system and business processes to improve the quality of the prior imprisonment data. Comparisons to data prior to 2008 should be used with caution as the data may no longer be comparable.

90 Commencing from 2003, the prisoner census includes those prisoners who are held in community custody centres and work camps in Queensland.


Western Australia

91 The large increase in prisoners from 2008 was due to fewer offenders being granted parole by the Prisoner Review Board, increased incarcerations by the courts and the impact of the Truth in Sentencing legislation. Implemented on 23 September 2008, the Truth in Sentencing legislation refers to the Sentencing Act (WA) 1995, Transitional Provisions which removes the automatic 1/3 discount for each and every offence that appears in WA Statute books.


Tasmania

92 The Risdon Prison Complex in Tasmania was opened on 28 August 2006. This complex includes the Mary Hutchinson Women's Prison which was opened in May 2006. A men's maximum/ medium security facility was also built within the complex.

93 The growth in the prison population in Tasmania recorded for 2005 has primarily resulted from an increase in the number of remand receptions over the 2004-2005 period. There had been no specific policy change causing this increase in remand receptions.

94 From 2003, the most serious offence/charge data for Tasmania has been determined by the application of the National Offence Index as the longest sentence can no longer be attributed to a single offence (see paragraph 75).


Northern Territory

95 In 2005, Northern Territory implemented new quality assurance processes in the extraction of their prior imprisonment data. The result of these processes has been an improvement in the quality of prior adult imprisonment under sentence data.


Australian Capital Territory

96 Prior to 2009, persons sentenced to full-time custody by the Australian Capital Territory were usually held in New South Wales prisons. A new prison facility to house persons sentenced to full-time custody, the Alexander Maconochie Centre, began taking prisoners on 30 March 2009. As at 30 June 2009, all Australian Capital Territory prisoners held in New South Wales prisons had been relocated to the new Alexander Maconochie Centre.

97 In 2002, all periodic detainees with a current warrant were included in the census count (i.e. including those who were in breach of an order). Consequently, the periodic detainee population increased from 2002. In 2006 periodic detainees who were in breach of an order for more than three months were excluded from counts to ensure consistency with the scope of this collection. Consequently, the periodic detainee population decreased from 2006.


CONFIDENTIALITY

98 Table cells containing small values have been randomly adjusted to avoid releasing confidential information. Due to this randomisation process, totals may vary slightly across tables.


ADDITIONAL DATA

99 A set of additional tables containing extra state and territory information is available on the ABS website. Special tabulations may be produced on request to meet individual user requirements. For further information, contact the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics by email through <crime.justice@abs.gov.au> or the contact person listed on the front cover of this publication.


RELATED PUBLICATIONS

ABS publications

100 Other ABS publications which may be of interest include:
101 Current publications and other products released by the ABS are available from the ABS website <http://www.abs.gov.au>. The ABS also provides a Release Calendar on the website detailing products to be released in the next six months. The National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics within the ABS releases Crime and Justice News (cat. no. 4500.0), an annual newsletter that is published on the ABS website. The National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics can be contacted by email <crime.justice@abs.gov.au>.

102 Non-ABS sources which may be of interest include:
      Australian Institute of Criminology, List of Publications - irregular Crime Research Centre, University of Western Australia, Crime and Justice Statistics Department of Corrective Services, New South Wales, Department of Justice, Northern Territory, Northern Territory Quarterly Crime and Department of Justice, Victoria, Statistical Profile of the Victorian Prison System NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, New South Wales Criminal Courts Office of Crime Statistics and Research, South Australia, Crime and Justice in South Steering Committee for the Review of Commonwealth/State Service Provision,


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