4517.0 - Prisoners in Australia, 2009 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 10/12/2009   
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90th percentile

A percentile is a value that divides the distribution of a particular data item into 100 groups having equal frequencies. The 90th percentile indicates that 90 percent of the values of the data item lie at or below the 90th percentile.

Abduction, harassment and other offences against the person

Acts intended to threaten or harass, or acts that unlawfully deprive another person of their freedom of movement, that are against that person's will or against the will of any parent, guardian or other person having lawful custody or care of that person.

Acts intended to cause injury

Acts, excluding attempted murder and those resulting in death, which are intended to cause non-fatal injury or harm to another person and where there is no sexual or acquisitive element.

Adult prisoner

An adult prisoner is a person who is aged 18 years and over in all states and territories except Queensland where an adult prisoner is a person aged 17 years and over (see Explanatory Notes, paragraph 11).

Age standardisation

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. In the context of such a comparison, the key variable of interest is the ratio of rates, rather than the age standardised rates alone (see Explanatory Notes, paragraphs 31-32).

Aggregate sentence

The longest period that the convicted prisoner may be detained for the current sentenced offences in the current episode.

Country of birth

Country of birth information is classified according to the Standard Classification of Countries (SACC), Second edition (cat. no. 1269.0) (see Explanatory Notes, paragraph 41).

Crude imprisonment rates

Crude imprisonment rates are calculated by dividing the number of prisoners in the reference period, by the total adult population, multiplied by 100,000 to give a crude rate per 100,000 adult population. Crude rates measure the actual rates of imprisonment and are not adjusted for any differences in population structures that may influence the rates. As such, it is preferable to use age standardised rates when comparing rates of imprisonment for Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.

Dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons

Dangerous or negligent acts which, though not intended to cause harm, actually or potentially result in injury to oneself or another person.

Date of reception

The date the prisoner was received into prison for the current episode.


A continuous period of imprisonment (see Explanatory Notes, paragraphs 42-43).

Expected time to serve

The period of imprisonment that a convicted prisoner is expected to serve. In most cases this refers to the time between the date of reception for this episode and the earliest date of release (see Explanatory Notes, paragraphs 46-69).

Fine default only

A type of sentence where persons are serving a sentence for non-payment of a fine and are subject to no other sentence type at the time. Offenders who are serving fine default sentences while on remand are counted as sentenced (fine default) prisoners. Offenders who are serving fine default sentences concurrently with other sentences of imprisonment are counted under the other sentence type and not as fine default only prisoners.

Fixed term

A type of sentence where there is no minimum term or non-parole period set. The prisoner is required to serve the whole sentence, less any remission allowed, in custody and when released from custody is not subject to any further correctional intervention.

Fraud, deception and related offences

Offences involving a dishonest act or omission carried out with the purpose of deceiving to obtain a benefit.

Homicide and related offences

The unlawful killing, attempted unlawful killing or conspiracy to kill another person.

Illicit drug offences

The possession, sale, dealing or trafficking, importing or exporting, manufacture or cultivation of drugs or other substances prohibited under legislation.

Imprisonment rate

Imprisonment rates are expressed as the number of persons in prison per 100,000 adult population. Imprisonment rates enable comparison of prisoner populations across states and territories.

Indeterminate sentences

Types of sentences where persons are sentenced to life imprisonment with no prescribed minimum time to serve. This does not necessarily mean, however, that the person will be held in custody for the term of their natural life. This category includes Indeterminate - life; Indeterminate - Governor's/HM Pleasure; or Indeterminate - subject to ministerial/administrative decision.

Indigenous prisoners

Indigenous prisoners are those prisoners who self identified as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin at the time of reception.


The state or territory in which a prisoner is held in custody, regardless of which state or territory has imposed the sentence being served (see Explanatory Notes, paragraphs 13 and 96).

Legal status

The legal status of an offender is determined by the warrant/s or court order/s which provide the legal basis for the detention in custody of the offender. The legal status of sentenced includes: no appeal current; awaiting appeal; unfit to plead; not guilty on grounds of insanity; preventative detention. A legal status of unsentenced includes: unconvicted awaiting court hearing or trial; awaiting sentence; and awaiting deportation.

Level of court

A separate tier of the court system, each of which is established under legislation and has certain prescribed powers. Court levels are distinguished from one another on the basis of the extent of their legal powers.

Life with minimum

A type of sentence where persons are sentenced to life imprisonment, where a minimum time to serve in custody has been specified by the court.

Maximum-minimum (or max-min)

A type of sentence where persons may be eligible to be released on parole after serving a minimum term in custody, and who must be released once a maximum term has been served.


The arithmetic average.


The middle value of a set of values when the values are sorted in order.

Miscellaneous offences

Offences involving the breach of statutory rules or regulations governing activities, where such offences are not explicitly dealt with under any other division of ASOC, including:

  • harassment and related offences
  • public health and safety offences
  • commercial/industry/financial regulations.

Most serious charge

Historically, for unsentenced prisoners, whether convicted or not, the most serious charge is the charge which carries the longest statutory maximum penalty. From 2006, the Prisoner Census moved towards the use of the National Offence Index for determining most serious charge (see Explanatory Notes, paragraph 77).

Most serious offence

For sentenced prisoners, the most serious offence is the offence for which the prisoner has received the longest sentence in the current episode for a single count of the offence, except for Tasmania (see Explanatory Notes, paragraphs 74-76).

Offences against justice procedures, government security and operations

An act or omission that is deemed to be prejudicial to the effective carrying out of justice procedures or any government operations. This includes general government operations as well as those specifically concerned with maintaining government security.

Other indeterminate sentence

Includes two sentence types: Indeterminate - Governor's/HM Pleasure or Indeterminate - subject to ministerial/administrative decision.

Other sentence

An indeterminate sentence determination whereby persons are declared as habitual criminals, or persons are either permanently or temporarily deemed not responsible for their actions because of a mental disorder or intellectual disability. Such prisoners are detained and do not have a release date set. That is, the prisoner may be released at any time, at the discretion of the administrative body within each jurisdiction responsible for making that decision. This includes all Indeterminate sentences, except for Indeterminate - Life.

Periodic detention

A type of sentence where persons are in custody for two consecutive days in a week (periodic detainee week), but remain at liberty during the rest of the week. This sentencing option is only available to New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory courts.

Prior imprisonment

Persons known to have been imprisoned under sentence in an adult prison. Prior sentence of periodic detention is included as prior imprisonment. Prisoners who have had previous adult imprisonment in another state or territory may not be counted as having prior imprisonment.


A person held in custody. For the purposes of this collection, prisoners are those whose confinement is the responsibility of a corrective services agency.

Prohibited and regulated weapons and explosives offences

Offences involving prohibited or regulated weapons and explosives.

Property damage and environmental pollution

The wilful and unlawful destruction, damage or defacement of public or private property, or the pollution of property or a definable entity held in common by the community.

Public order offences

Offences involving personal conduct that:
  • involves or may lead to a breach of public order and decency
  • is indicative of criminal intent
  • is otherwise regulated or prohibited on moral or ethical grounds.

In general these offences do not involve a specific victim or victims, however some offences, such as offensive language and offensive behaviour, may be directed towards a single victim.

Remand prisoners (remandees)

Remand prisoners are those persons who have been placed in custody while awaiting the outcome of their court hearing. They may be unconvicted (remanded in custody for trial), convicted but awaiting sentence (remanded in custody for sentence) or awaiting deportation. Some sentenced prisoners also have active remand warrants against them. In such cases, these prisoners are counted as sentenced.

Robbery, extortion and related offences

Acts intended to unlawfully gain money, property or other thing of value from, or to cause detriment to, another person by using the threat of force or any other coercive measure.

Sentenced in the last 12 months

Prisoners whose date of aggregate sentence commenced between 1 July in the preceding year and 30 June in the current year. The date the aggregate sentence commenced is based on a determination made by a sentencing judicial officer. This date may take into consideration time on remand or sentences currently being served.

Sentenced prisoners

Sentenced prisoners are those persons who have received a term of imprisonment from a court. This includes offenders who have been given an indeterminate sentence or custodial order, for example, persons detained under the 'Governor's/HM's Pleasure' and 'Forensic Patients', or those who have received a life sentence. Also included are periodic detainees in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

Sexual assault and related offences

Acts of a sexual nature against another person which are non-consensual or consent is proscribed.

Theft and related offences

The unlawful taking or obtaining of money or goods not involving the use of force, threat of force or violence, coercion or deception, with the intent to permanently or temporarily deprive the owner or possessor of the use of the money or goods, or the receiving or handling of money or goods obtained unlawfully.

Time on remand

For unsentenced prisoners, time on remand is calculated as the period between the date of reception and the prisoner census date. It represents only that period of time spent on remand up to 30 June of the reference year.

Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences

Offences relating to vehicle and most forms of road traffic, including offences pertaining to the licensing, registration, roadworthiness or use of vehicles, bicycle offences and pedestrian offences.

Unlawful entry with intent/burglary, break and enter

The unlawful entry of a structure with the intent to commit an offence where the entry is either forced or unforced.

Unsentenced prisoners

A legal status indicating that a person is confined to custody on remand while awaiting the outcome of their trial. They may be unconvicted (remanded in custody for trial), convicted but awaiting sentence (remanded in custody for sentence) or awaiting deportation.