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At 30 June 2002, nearly half (46%) of all sentenced prisoners were convicted with a most serious offence involving violence or the threat of violence, including homicide (10%), assault (12%), sexual assault (10%) and robbery (14%) (table 11.38). Another 12% had a most serious offence of UEWI, while a further 10% were serving sentences for a most serious offence involving illicit drugs.
There were differences in the types of most serious offence for which men and women were imprisoned. Graph 11.39 shows that the highest numbers of most serious offences for males in prison at 30 June 2002 involved robbery, UEWI, assault and sexual assault. In the case of female prisoners, drug offences, theft and related offences, robbery, assault and homicide were the frequent most serious offences.
Aggregate length of sentence is a measure of the sentences imposed on an offender, sometimes taking multiple offences into account. It is not measured for prisoners who receive an indeterminate type of sentence such as 'life'. Periodic detainees' sentences are also measured separately. At 30 June 2002 the average aggregate sentence of all prisoners sentenced to a specific term was 4.9 years (graph 11.40). Nearly one in four sentenced prisoners (23%) had an average aggregate sentence of 2-5 years, with another 22% with a sentence of 5-10 years.
The time a prisoner is expected to serve in custody depends upon the sentence originally handed down, the system of remissions and the forms of parole available. Taking into account the earliest dates for release of sentenced prisoners, the average expected time to serve at 30 June 2002 was 3.5 years.
Unsentenced (remand) prisoners include unconvicted prisoners awaiting a court hearing or trial, convicted prisoners awaiting sentencing and persons awaiting deportation. Unsentenced prisoners account for an increasing number and proportion of the total prisoner population. At 30 June 2002 one in five (20%) of the total prisoner population was unsentenced compared with 12% in 1992 (graph 11.41).
The prisoner population has increased from 15,559 at 30 June 1992 to 22,492 at 30 June 2002. The 45% increase in the number of prisoners during this period exceeded the 15% growth in the Australian adult population. All states and territories recorded increases in prisoner numbers during this period. These increases varied from 134% in Queensland to 17% in New South Wales (graph 11.42).
Between 1992 and 2002 there have been increases in the proportions of the sentenced prisoner population who had a most serious offence of robbery or assault. During the same period, a decrease was recorded in sentenced prisoners with a most serious offence of UEWI (graph 11.43).