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AGGREGATE SENTENCE LENGTH FOR SENTENCED PRISONERS (a)
According to the annual National Prisoner census as at 30 June 2011, males comprised 93% of the total age standardised prisoner population, while females comprised 7%.
The annual National Prisoner Census counts all people, held on the night of 30 June in Australian prisons who are in the legal custody of adult corrective services, including periodic detainees in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, but excluding persons held in juvenile institutions, psychiatric custody and police custody. 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 people serving short sentences for less serious offences. (Endnote 1)
Although courts may impose various penalties for people convicted of criminal offences (such as fines, community service orders and the like) imprisonment is the most severe social response to crime in Australia. (Endnote 2)
Age standardisation is a statistical method that adjusts crude rates to account for age differences between study populations. Age standardisation enables better comparisons between different populations.
At 30 June 2011, there were 29,106 prisoners (age standardised, including sentenced and unsentenced prisoners) in Australian prisons. This represented an imprisonment rate of 167 prisoners per 100,000 adult population. (Endnote 3) The age standardised imprisonment rate for males increased from 281.1 in 2002 to 320.1 per 100,000 men in 2010, and for females from 19.8 to 24.2 per 100,000 women.
Between the 2010 and 2011 Prisoner Census dates, the total age standardised prisoner population decreased by 2% (from 29,700 on 30 June 2010 to 29,106 on 30 June 2011). This was in contrast to the 1% increase between 2009 and 2010. Between the 2010 and 2011 Prisoner Census dates, the number of male prisoners decreased by 1% (394) and female prisoners decreased by 9% (200).
The median age of male prisoners at 30 June 2011 was 33.5 years, while for females it was 34.8 years. Two thirds of all prisoners (66%) were aged between 20 and 39 years. (Endnote 3)
For both males and females, the highest proportion of prisoners were in the 25-34 year age group, with 35% of male and 37% of female prisoners in this age group. The age specific imprisonment rate for men in 25-29 year age group was 572.1 per 100,000 men and was 584.8 (per 100,000 men) for those aged 30-34 years. The age specific imprisonment rate for women was 43.3 per 100,000 women in 25-29 year age group and 50.1 per 100,000 women in 30-34 year age group.
There were 22,383 sentenced prisoners in Australian prisons at 30 June 2011, a decrease of 4% (950 sentenced prisoners) from 30 June 2010 (23,333). The proportion of sentenced prisoners who were male was 93% (20,856) in 2011. The number of sentenced males in prison decreased by 3% (749) from 30 June 2010, while sentenced females decreased by 12% (201) in the same period.
Sentenced prisoners by most serious offence
At 30 June 2011, the highest proportion of sentenced male prisoners were sentenced for acts intended to cause injury (17%) as the most serious offence, followed by sexual assault (15%). For sentenced female prisoners, the highest proportion were sentenced for illicit drugs (17%) as the most serious offence, followed by acts intended to cause injury (14%). However, the overall number of females sentenced for illicit drugs (260) was lower than males sentenced for this offence (2,140).
Similar proportions of male and female prisoners had homicide and related offences as their most serious offence (10% and 12% respectively), as well as offences against justice (both 10%). The proportion of male prisoners sentenced for sexual assault and related offences (15%) was much higher than for female prisoners (3%). 10% of male prisoners were sentenced for robbery, extortion and related offences compared to 7% of female prisoners.
There were higher proportions of female prisoners than male prisoners for the following offence types: fraud, deception and related offences (11% of female prisoners, 2% of male prisoners); and illicit drug offences (17% of women prisoners, 10% of male prisoners).
ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLES
The median age of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander male prisoners was 30.5 years compared to 30.4 years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female prisoners. In contrast, the median ages of male and female non-Indigenous prisoners were higher at 34.8 and 36.3 years respectively. (Endnote 3)
At 30 June 2011, the mean aggregate sentence length for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander male prisoners was 45 months, whereas for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female prisoners it was 29 months. The mean aggregate sentence lengths for non-Indigenous prisoners were higher (67 months for males and 55 months for females).
1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010, Year Book Australia, 2009-10 (cat. no. 1301.0) <www.abs.gov.au>.
2. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010, Measures of Australia's Progress, 2010 (cat. no. 1370.0) <www.abs.gov.au>.
3. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010, Prisoners in Australia, 2011 (cat. no. 4517.0) <www.abs.gov.au>.
SAFETY AND JUSTICE LINKS
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