4517.0 - Prisoners in Australia, 2016 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 08/12/2016   
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Prisoner characteristics, Australia

Snapshot

At 30 June, 2016:
  • There were 38,845 prisoners in Australian prisons, an increase of 8% (2,711 prisoners) from 30 June, 2015. (Table 2)
  • The national imprisonment rate was 208 prisoners per 100,000 adult population, a 6% increase from 196 prisoners per 100,000 adult population in 2015. (Table 2)
  • Nearly three-quarters of prisoners (69% or 26,649 prisoners) were under sentence, whilst 31% (12,111 prisoners) were unsentenced.
  • The most common offences/charges for prisoners were:
    • Acts intended to cause injury (22%);
    • Illicit drug offences (14%); and
    • Sexual assault and Unlawful entry with intent (both 11%). (Table 1)
  • Acts intended to cause injury was the most common offence/charge across all states and territories. The proportion of prisoners with this offence/charge ranged from 18% in Victoria and South Australia (1,175 and 534 prisoners, respectively), to nearly half of all prisoners in the Northern Territory (46% or 769 prisoners). (Table 15)
  • The offence/charge with the largest percentage increase in prisoners was Abduction/harassment, which went up 23% (110 prisoners). However, this offence represents only 2% of the total prisoner population.
  • The only offence category to see a decrease was Robbery/extortion, which went down slightly (3% or 86 prisoners). (Table 15 and historical data)
  • Males accounted for 92% of all prisoners (35,745 prisoners), and females the remaining 8% (3,094 prisoners). (Table 13)

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners accounted for just over a quarter (27% or 10,596 prisoners) of the total Australian prisoner population. The total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population aged 18 years and over in 2016 was approximately 2% of the Australian population aged 18 years and over (based on Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0) and Estimates and Projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2001 to 2026 (cat. no. 3238.0)). (Table 1)

Graph Image for PERCENTAGE MOVEMENT FROM 30 JUNE 2015 TO 30 JUNE 2016, selected prisoner characteristics

Footnote(s): (a) Prior adult imprisonment under sentence.

Source(s): Prisoners in Australia



Graph Image for CHANGE IN PRISONER NUMBERS FROM 30 JUNE 2015 TO 30 JUNE 2016, selected prisoner characteristics

Footnote(s): (a) Prior adult imprisonment under sentence.

Source(s): Prisoners in Australia


  • The adult prisoner population increased across all states and territories since 30 June, 2015, with New South Wales experiencing the largest increase in prisoner numbers (832 prisoners or 7%). However, the largest percentage increase was in Western Australia, where the prisoner population rose by 14% (774 prisoners). (Table 14)
  • New South Wales had the largest adult prisoner population, comprising one-third (33% or 12,629 prisoners) of the total Australian adult prisoner population, followed by Queensland (20% or 7,746 prisoners) and Victoria (17% or 6,522 prisoners). (Table 13)
  • The Northern Territory had the highest imprisonment rate (923 prisoners per 100,000 adult population) whilst Victoria had the lowest imprisonment rate (138 prisoners per 100,000 adult population). (Table 16)
  • Imprisonment rates reached their highest in all states and territories since the start of the collection. (Table 18 and historical data)

Graph Image for PRISONERS, states and territories, 30 June 2006 to 30 June 2016

Source(s): Prisoners in Australia



Graph Image for IMPRISONMENT RATE(a), states and territories, 30 June 2006 to 30 June 2016

Footnote(s): (a) Rate per 100,000 adult population. See Explanatory Notes paragraphs 54–57 and 59–62.

Source(s): Prisoners in Australia


  • In all states and territories, at least half of prisoners were recorded as having had prior adult imprisonment under sentence, with the highest proportions in the Australian Capital Territory (74% or 324 prisoners) followed by the Northern Territory (72% or 1,194 prisoners). (Table 13)