4517.0 - Prisoners in Australia, 2008  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/12/2008   
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December 11, 2008 Embargoed: 11.30 am (AEDT) 117/2008

More than half of prisoners are repeat offenders: ABS

Over half (55% or 15,200) of all prisoners have served a sentence in an adult prison prior to their current incarceration, according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Prisoner numbers increased by 1% over the year to June 2008, from 27,200 prisoners in June 2007 to 27,600 prisoners in June 2008. This equated to an imprisonment rate of 169 prisoners per 100,000 adults in Australia, unchanged from 2007.

The largest proportional increases in the prisoner population were recorded for sexual assault charges or offences (10% increase to 3,400 prisoners), followed by illicit drugs (6% increase to 2,900 prisoners).

Prisoners were sentenced to an average prison term of 4.9 years, however the average expected time to serve (the earliest date of release, taking into account the type of sentence, good behaviour, time already served, etc) was 3.5 years. Of all sentenced prisoners, 5% were serving a life term or other indeterminate sentence.

Almost a quarter (23%) of all prisoners were on remand; an increase of 4% from June 2007. The average time spent on remand by prisoners was 5 months, unchanged from 2007.

Nearly a quarter (24%) of prisoners were Indigenous. Indigenous people were 13 times more likely to be in prison than non-Indigenous people. However, their average sentence length was less than non-Indigenous prisoners (3.7 years compared with 5.4 years).

Other findings at 30 June 2008 were:
  • Prisoners aged 45 years and over were more likely to be in prison for sexual assault offences (51% for prisoners aged 55 and over and 22% for those aged 45-54)
  • A quarter of prisoners aged less than 25 years were in prison for acts intended to cause injury. This offence/charge also accounted for the highest proportion of prisoners aged between 25 and 44 years of age.
  • The imprisonment rate for women increased from 16 to 24 prisoners per 100,000 adult women over the 10 years to June 2008.

Further details are available in Prisoners in Australia (cat. no. 4517.0), available free of charge from the ABS website <www.abs.gov.au>.

Media note: Media note: Sexual assault includes related offences. The average sentence excludes prisoners with indeterminate, life with a minimum and periodic detention sentences. The expected time to serve excludes indeterminate, life without a minimum and periodic detention sentences.