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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2004  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/02/2004   
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Contents >> Crime and justice >> Prisoners in Australia

The National Prisoner Census, conducted annually on the night of 30 June, counts all offenders who are in the legal custody of adult corrective services, including periodic detainees in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. At any given point in time, most prisoners are serving long sentences for relatively serious offences, but the flow of offenders in and out of prisons consists primarily of persons serving short sentences for less serious offences.

The total prison population in Australia has increased by 45% from 15,559 in 1992 to 22,492 in 2002. There were 21,008 male prisoners on 30 June 2002, comprising 93% of the total prisoner population (table 11.27). The median age of prisoners in Australia was 31 years for males and 30 years for females. The majority of prisoners in Australia are young adult males, with 56% of all prisoners being males aged between 20 and 34 years (graph 11.28). New South Wales had the highest proportion of prisoners (39%), followed by Queensland (21%).

11.27 PRISONERS, By jurisdiction - 30 June 2002

Males
Females
All prisoners
Males
Females
All prisoners
no.
no.
no.
rate(a)
rate(a)
rate(a)

New South Wales(b)(c)
8,154
605
8,759
318.4
22.9
168.0
Victoria
3,286
254
3,540
178.4
13.0
93.4
Queensland
4,433
288
4,721
319.7
20.1
167.3
South Australia
1,377
84
1,461
236.2
13.8
122.7
Western Australia
2,606
194
2,800
356.6
26.2
190.2
Tasmania
397
30
427
225.7
16.1
118.1
Northern Territory
646
21
667
862.4
30.8
466.2
ACT in ACT
109
8
117
. .
. .
. .
ACT in NSW(b)
116
7
123
. .
. .
. .
ACT total(c)
225
15
240
185.1
11.8
96.3
Australia(d)
21,008
1,484
22,492
282.4
19.2
148.3

(a) Rate per 100,000 adult population.
(b) The majority of full-time prisoners sentenced in the ACT are held in NSW prisons and are included in the counts for NSW.
(c) ACT prisoners who were held in NSW prisons have been excluded from the NSW rate and are included in the ACT rate.
(d) ACT in NSW figures are a subset of the NSW figures and are not separately counted in the Australian totals.
Source: Prisoners in Australia, 2002 (4517.0).

Graph - 11.28 Prisoners, By age group and sex - 30 June 2002

Some of the factors that have influenced the size of the prison population over this period include: legislative changes affecting the length of time prisoners spend in prison; the abolition of sentence-reducing mechanisms such as remission; significant court delays leading to an increase in unsentenced prisoners in some jurisdictions (the proportion of prisoners who were unsentenced increased from 12% in 1992 to 20% in 2002); an increase in Australia's population; and an increase in the amount of recorded crime. Graph 11.29 shows a time series of the rate of adult prisoners per 100,000 adult population. Nationally, the imprisonment rate was 148 per 100,000 adult population at 30 June 2002. The imprisonment rates vary noticeably between jurisdictions, with the Northern Territory recording the highest imprisonment rate of 466 per 100,000 adult population in 2002 (graph 11.30), substantially greater than the next highest rate of 190 prisoners per 100,000 adult population in Western Australia, and well above the national rate.

Graph - 11.29 Imprisonment rate


Graph - 11.30 Imprisonment rate, By jurisdictions - 30 June 2002

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