4517.0 - Prisoners in Australia, 2003  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 22/01/2004   
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January 22, 2004
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)
Prisoner numbers have increased by 50% over past 10 years

In the past 10 years, the prisoner population in Australia increased by nearly 50%, from 15,866 in 1993 to 23,555 in 2003, according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). This increase has exceeded the 15% growth in the Australian adult population in the same period.

From 1993 to 2003 (at 30 June), the female prisoner population increased by 110%, compared to a 45% increase in the male prisoner population. Overall, the adult imprisonment rate increased from 119 to 153 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.

Other changes in the prison population in the 1993-2003 period include:
  • The proportion of Indigenous people in the prison population has risen from 15% to 20%;
  • The mean age of prisoners has increased from 31 years to 34 years;
  • The proportion of unsentenced prisoners has increased from 12% to 20%;
  • The proportion of sentenced prisoners serving an aggregate sentence length of 10 years or more has increased from 9% to 13%; and
  • Sentenced prisoners with a most serious offence of homicide and related offences increased from 9% to 10% and assault from 11% to 13%.

At June 2003, there were 23,555 prisoners in Australia, an increase of 5% since 30 June 2002. The mean aggregate sentence length was 4.9 years and the mean expected time to serve was 3.2 years.

Other findings as at 30 June 2003 include:
  • Indigenous prisoners were proportionally more likely to be serving shorter sentences than the overall prisoner population, with 42% of Indigenous prisoners expected to serve less than 12 months. This is compared with 31% of all prisoners;
  • Nearly 55% of prisoners were males aged 20-34 years;
  • Females represented 7% of the total prisoner population;
  • Almost 60% of male prisoners and 50% of female prisoners are known to have prior imprisonment; and
  • Nearly 1 in 2 sentenced prisoners had a most serious offence involving violence or the threat of violence.

Further details including state and territory breakdowns are available in Prisoners in Australia, 30 June 2003 (cat. no. 4517.0).