4517.0 - Prisoners in Australia, 2012 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 06/12/2012  Reissue
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6 December 2012
Embargoed: 11.30 am Canberra time

Women prisoners increasing at a faster rate than men

The number of female prisoners in Australia is growing at a faster rate than males, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures released today.

The number of women behind bars has increased 8.4 per cent over the last 12 months and 48 per cent since 2002. This compares to the number of male prisoners which increased 0.4 per cent over the last 12 months and 29 per cent since 2002.

ABS Director of the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics, Fiona Dowsley, said today’s ‘Prisoners in Australia’ publication revealed that 2,201 females were in Australian adult corrective services custody on 30 June 2012.

“Today’s statistics show that the number of female prisoners has increased at a rate 21 times higher than the number of male prisoners since 2011,” Ms Dowsley said.

“Females now make up seven per cent of Australia’s total prisoner population.”

Ms Dowsley said the ‘Prisoners in Australia’ publication looks at people who were in Australian adult corrective services and includes statistics on the characteristics of prisoners, their sentence length and the most serious offence.

“A total of 29,383 people were behind bars in Australia on 30 June 2012, an increase of one per cent since 2011 and 31 per cent since 2002,” Ms Dowsley said.

Imprisonment rates and offences

“Our data showed that Australia has a current imprisonment rate of 168 prisoners per 100,000 adults. This represents an increase of 11 per cent over ten years from 151 per 100,000 adults in 2002.

“The Northern Territory had the highest imprisonment rate in the country with 826 per 100,000 adults incarcerated, followed by Western Australia with 267 per 100,000,” she said.

The most common offences for sentenced male prisoners were acts intended to cause injury (17 per cent) and sexual assault (15 per cent) while for females the most common were illicit drug offences (17 per cent of female prisoners) and acts intended to cause injury (14 per cent).

Prisoner demographics

“The median age was 33.9 years for males and 34.6 years for females.

“Eight in ten prisoners were born in Australia, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comprised just over a quarter (27 per cent or 7,982) of the total prisoner population,” she said.

Over half (55 per cent) of all prisoners had served a sentence in an adult prison prior to the current episode.