4517.0 - Prisoners in Australia, 2019 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 05/12/2019   
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Prisoner characteristics, Australia

At 30 June 2019:

Key statistics

  • There were 43,028 prisoners, an increase of less than one per cent (54 prisoners) from 30 June 2018.
  • Between 2018 and 2019 the national imprisonment rate decreased by 1% from 221 to 219 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.
  • Two out of three prisoners (67% or 28,721 prisoners) were sentenced, whilst 33% (14,210 prisoners) were unsentenced. (Table 2)
  • The most common offences/charges for prisoners were:
    • Acts intended to cause injury (23%);
    • Illicit drug offences (15%);
    • Sexual assault and related offences (13%); and
    • Unlawful entry with intent (10%). (Table 3)

  • The offence/charge with the largest numerical increase in prisoners was Sexual assault and related offences, which increased 7% (388 prisoners).
  • The largest numerical decrease in offence type was Unlawful entry with intent, which decreased by 5% (214 prisoners). (Table 3)

Sex
  • Males accounted for 92% of all prisoners (39,538 prisoners) and females the remaining 8% (3,494 prisoners). (Table 1)
  • The number of male prisoners increased by less than one per cent (195 prisoners) from 30 June 2018.
  • The number of female prisoners decreased by 4% (131 prisoners). (Table 2)

Male prisoners, 30 June 2009 to 30 June 2019

Male prisoners, 30 June 2009 to 30 June 2019
Commonwealth of Australia 2019

Female prisoners, 30 June 2009 to 30 June 2019

Female prisoners, 30 June 2009 to 30 June 2019


Commonwealth of Australia 2019

  • Since 30 June 2018, the national male imprisonment rate decreased by less than one per cent to 409 prisoners per 100,000 male adult population; while the female imprisonment rate decreased by 5% to 35 prisoners per 100,000 female adult population. (Table 15)
  • The most common offences/charges for male prisoners were:
    • Acts intended to cause injury (23%);
    • Illicit drug offences (15%); and
    • Sexual assault and related offences (14%).
  • The most common offences/charges for female prisoners were:
    • Illicit drug offences (22%);
    • Acts intended to cause injury (19%); and
    • Unlawful entry with intent (10%). (Table 1)

Age
  • The median age for male adult prisoners was 35 years of age, whilst the median age for females was 34 years of age.
  • The median age of prisoners has increased from 33 years to 35 years over the past decade. (Tables 1 & 15)
  • Prisoners with an offence/charge of Sexual assault and related offences had the highest median age (45 years), followed by Homicide and related offences (41 years).
  • Prisoners with an offence/charge of Robbery/extortion had the lowest median age (30 years). (Table 1)
  • Persons aged 30 to 34 years had the highest imprisonment rate (412 prisoners per 100,000 persons aged 30 to 34), followed by persons aged 25 to 29 years (408 prisoners per 100,000 persons aged 25 to 29 years).
  • Persons aged 65 years and over had the lowest imprisonment rate (31 prisoners per 100,000 persons aged 65 years and over). (Table 4)

Country of birth

  • Four in every five prisoners were born in Australia (82% or 35,228 prisoners).
  • Overseas born persons accounted for 17% of all prisoners. (Table 22)
  • The most common countries of birth for overseas born prisoners were:
    • New Zealand (3% of total prisoners);
    • Vietnam (2%); and,
    • the United Kingdom (1%). (Table 7 & 22)

Prisoners, Selected countries of birth, 30 June 2019

Prisoners, Selected countries of birth

Footnote(s): (a) Includes Channel Islands and Isle of Man; (b) Excludes SARs and Taiwan province; (c) May include persons born in both Sudan and South Sudan.

Commonwealth of Australia 2019

Sentenced prisoners
  • There were 28,721 sentenced prisoners, a decrease of 1% (309 prisoners) from 30 June 2018. This represents the first decrease in sentenced prisoners since 2011. (Table 2)
  • The proportion of prisoners that were sentenced varied from 58% in the Australian Capital Territory (276 prisoners) to 71% (4,957 prisoners) in Western Australia. (Table 14)
  • The largest numerical decreases in sentenced prisoners were recorded in New South Wales (212 prisoners), Queensland (138 prisoners) and South Australia (106 prisoners). The largest increase was in Victoria (170 prisoners). (Table 27)
  • The median aggregate sentence length for sentenced prisoners was 3.2 years and the median expected time to serve for sentenced prisoners was 2.0 years. (Tables 11 and 12)
  • Just under half of all sentenced prisoners (44% or 12,682) had been sentenced in the previous 12 months. (Table 9)
  • The most common offences for sentenced prisoners were:
    • Acts intended to cause injury (18%);
    • Illicit drug offences (15%);
    • Sexual assault and related offences (15%); and
    • Unlawful entry with intent (11%). (Table 1)

Sentenced prisoners, Selected most serious offence(a), 30 June 2018 to 30 June 2019

Sentenced prisoners, Most serious offence, 30 June 2018 to 20 June 2019
Footnote(s): (a) For a definition of most serious offence, see Explanatory Notes, Most serious offence/charge. (b) Offences against justice procedures, government security and operations.

Commonwealth of Australia 2019

Proportion of sentenced prisoners, Selected offences(a), States and territories, 30 June 2019

Proportion of sentenced prisoners, Selected offences, States and territories, 30 June 2019

Footnote(s): (a) For a definition of most serious offence, see Explanatory Notes, Most serious offence/charge

Commonwealth of Australia 2019

  • The median aggregate sentence length for sentenced prisoners was highest in South Australia (4.4 years) and lowest in the Northern Territory (1.7 years). (Table 24)

Unsentenced prisoners
  • There were 14,210 unsentenced prisoners, an increase of 3% (354 prisoners) from 30 June 2018. (Table 2)

Unsentenced prisoners, 30 June 2009 to 30 June 2019

Unsentenced prisoners, 30 June 2009 to 30 June 2019
Commonwealth of Australia 2019

Proportion of unsentenced prisoners, States and territories, 30 June 2018 to 30 June 2019

Proportion of unsentenced prisoners, States and territories, 30 June 2018 to 30 June 2019
Commonwealth of Australia 2019
  • The most common charges for unsentenced prisoners were:
    • Acts intended to cause injury (33%);
    • Illicit drug offences (17%); and
    • Sexual assault and related offences (10%). (Table 1)

Unsentenced prisoners, Selected most serious charge(a), 30 June 2019

Unsentenced prisoners, Most serious charge, 30 June 2019
Footnote(s): (a) For a definition of most serious charge see Explanatory Notes, Most serious offence/charge

Commonwealth of Australia 2019
  • Median time on remand for unsentenced prisoners was 3.1 months. (Table 32)

Most serious offence/charge

The most common offences/charges for all prisoners as of 30 June 2019 were:
    • Acts intended to cause injury (23% or 9,824 prisoners);
    • Illicit drug offences (15% or 6,573 prisoners); and
    • Sexual assault and related offences (13% or 5,671 prisoners). (Table 1)

Between 2018 and 2019:
  • The largest increases in the number of prisoners occurred for the following offences:
    • Sexual assault and related offences (7% or 388 prisoners);
    • Acts intended to cause injury (2% or 165 prisoners); and
    • Offences against justice (6% or 177 prisoners).
  • The largest decreases occurred for the following offences:
    • Unlawful entry with intent (5% or 214 prisoners);
    • Illicit drug offences (3% or 206 prisoners); and
    • Robbery/extortion (4% or 143 prisoners). (Table 3)

Between 2010 and 2019:
  • Acts intended to cause injury has increased by 69% (or 4,021 prisoners). This remained the most common offence for prisoners in Australia throughout the period.
  • Illicit drug offences was the second most common offence since 2013, increasing by 103% (or 3,340 prisoners).

Prisoners, Selected most serious offence or charge(a), 30 June 2010 to 30 June 2019

Prisoners, Selected most serious offence or charge, 30 June 2010 to 30 June 2019
Footnote(s): (a) For a definition of most serious offence, see Explanatory Notes, Most serious offence/charge.

Commonwealth of Australia 2019

Acts intended to cause injury
  • Males accounted for the majority (93%) of prisoners with this offence.
  • The median age of prisoners with this offence was 33 years. (Table 1)
  • This was the most common offence/charge in every state and territory, other than Western Australia. (Table 16)
  • The majority of prisoners with this offence had prior adult imprisonment under sentence (67% or 6,533 prisoners). (Table 1)
  • The median aggregate sentence length for this offence was 2.0 years. (Table 11)

Illicit drug offences

  • Males accounted for the majority (89%) of prisoners with this offence.
  • The median age of prisoners with this offence was 36 years.
  • Most prisoners with this offence were non-Indigenous (94% or 6,149 prisoners).
  • Over one-third (40%) of prisoners with this offence had prior adult imprisonment under sentence. This was lower than national average of prior imprisonment (58%). (Table 1)
  • The median aggregate sentence length for this offence was 5.0 years. Table 11)

Sexual assault and related offences

  • The majority of prisoners with this offence were male (99% or 5,603 prisoners).
  • The median age of prisoners with this offence was 45 years, which was the highest of all offence types.
  • Most prisoners with this offence were non-Indigenous (82% or 4,630 prisoners).
  • Nearly one-third (32%) of prisoners with this offence had prior adult imprisonment under sentence. (Table 1)
  • The median aggregate sentence length for this offence was 7.2 years, which was the second longest of all offences, following Homicide and related offences (17.0 years). (Table 11)