Latest release

Corrective Services, Australia methodology

Reference period
December Quarter 2020

Introduction

This publication presents statistical series about persons either held in adult corrective services custody or who are serving adult community-based orders in Australia. It contains data on the number of: 

  • persons in custody by sex, Indigenous status, type of custody and legal status;  
  • receptions into corrective services custody by legal status, Indigenous status and sex; 
  • federal prisoners; 
  • persons in community-based corrections by sex and Indigenous status; and 
  • community-based corrections orders by type of order.

Statistics presented in this publication are compiled in three ways: 

  • Average daily prisoner population: Counts taken on each day of the month are summed and divided by the number of days in that month to determine the average daily prisoner population for that month.  
  • First day of the month populations: Counts of prisoners; persons serving community-based corrections orders; and community-based corrections orders by type of order are taken on or near the first day of the month. For quarterly figures, the sum of the monthly data is divided by three; for yearly figures, the figures for each month are added and the total divided by twelve (see Counting Rules section). 
  • Prisoner reception figures: Counts are provided on the total number of prisoner receptions for each month. Monthly data are aggregated to form quarterly and yearly totals.  

Although national standards and classifications are used in the compilation of these statistics, some discrepancies remain between the states and territories. These are due to legislative and procedural differences between jurisdictions and the way that these differences are reflected in agencies' administrative data systems. As part of its quality assurance strategy, the ABS is working with corrective services agencies to minimise the effect of these differences.

Data source

Statistics in this publication are derived from information provided to the ABS from administrative records held by corrective services agencies within each state and territory. Statistics on federal prisoners are derived from records kept by the Criminal Law Division of the Australian Government Attorney-General's Department.

Scope

The scope of the statistics in this publication includes all persons remanded or sentenced to adult custodial facilities, or who are serving adult community-based orders in each state and territory in Australia.

Included in the collection are prisoners who were: 

  • absent on an authorised temporary leave permit except for Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory;
  • absent from the correctional facility on a work release permit or program;
  • located in secure wards in a hospital or mental health institution outside the correctional facility administered under corrective services departments;
  • periodic detainees until 2016; or
  • serving post-sentence detention orders.

Excluded from the collection are prisoners who were: 

  • prisoners who were unlawfully absent from corrective services legal custody, e.g. escapees or prisoners who failed to return from an authorised temporary absence from a correctional facility; or
  • prisoners whose legal custody had been transferred to another agency, e.g. police or mental health institutions.

Community-based corrections (CBC) order types included in this collection are:

  • Restricted movement, except for Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory where it is not a sentencing option;
  • Parole;
  • Bail, except for Victoria and Queensland where bail orders are handled by the courts;
  • Fine option, except for New South Wales, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory where it is not a sentencing option;
  • Community service;
  • Sentenced probation; and
  • Post-sentence supervision, except for Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory where it is not a sentencing option.

Types of facilities

The types of custodial facilities and programs where prisoners are held vary between the states and territories.

Included in the collection are: 

  • gazetted prisons in all jurisdictions;
  • periodic detention centres in the Australian Capital Territory until 2016;
  • work camps in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory;
  • cells in court complexes administered by corrective services in New South Wales;
  • transitional centres in New South Wales and Victoria;
  • police lock-ups under the South Australia Corrective Services department; and
  • mental health facilities administered under corrective services departments.

Excluded from the collection are:

  • police lockups, police prisons and cells in court complexes not administered and controlled by corrective services;
  • immigration detention centres;
  • military prisons;
  • gazetted police prisons in the Northern Territory;
  • mental health facilities administered under health departments; and
  • juvenile detention centres, including those under the authority of adult corrective services.

This collection includes counts of persons remanded or sentenced to adult custody facilities, or directed to serve community-based orders administered by adult corrective services agencies. In all states and territories, persons are considered adults if aged 18 years and over. Prior to 2019 in Queensland, persons are considered adults if aged 17 years and over. The vast majority of persons counted in the collection are adults. However, juveniles may have been included in exceptional circumstances.

Federal prisoners include those persons charged and sentenced under a Commonwealth statute, and those persons who are charged and sentenced under the laws of another country but transferred to an Australian prison to serve their sentence under the International Transfer of Prisoners Act 1997 (Cwlth). To give practical effect to this legislation in Australia, the framework was introduced in January 2003. For the purposes of this publication, federal sentenced prisoners are those persons who are recognised by the Criminal Law Division of the Australian Government Attorney-General's Department as having been charged and sentenced under a Commonwealth statute, or transferred from another country to serve their sentence in Australia. 

The community-based corrections data does not include offenders subject to orders or programs to be served in the community that are not managed and supervised by corrective services, for example, pre-sentence diversion programs operated by courts or unsupervised good behaviour bonds.

With the exception of Victoria and Tasmania, community-based corrections data include those persons with breached or suspended orders.

Counting rules

The reference period for average daily prisoner population statistics is the complete reference month. The reference date for all other figures is the first day of the reference month. However, not all states and territories report strictly according to this 'first day of the month' rule. The Western Australian population is counted as at midnight on the last day of the month and the figures provided are taken to represent the prison population at the beginning of the following month. 

Statistics for persons held in custody are presented by the state or territory in which they were held, however, this may not be the same as the original sentencing jurisdiction. The only exception to this is data for federal sentenced prisoners. These are presented by the state or territory in which they were sentenced, not where they were held in custody. 

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. Some offenders may have more than one type of warrant issued against them; therefore, it is possible for an offender to have dual status (e.g. under sentence for some offences and awaiting appeal results for others, or under sentence and awaiting deportation). The counting rules for determining the legal status of an offender are as follows: 

  • If the prisoner has been sentenced for any offence then this takes precedence over any other offence(s)/charge(s) for which the prisoner is unsentenced.
  • If the sentenced prisoner has appealed against all of his/her sentences then that prisoner is counted as under sentence.

For the count of community-based corrections orders by type of order, if an offender has two or more different types of community-based orders operating simultaneously, then each order will be counted. If two or more community-based orders are of the same type, the person will only be counted once in each order category. Some jurisdictions have orders with multiple conditions and these conditions can be counted as separate orders.

Rates

Imprisonment and community-based corrections rates enable comparisons of prisoner numbers to be made across states and territories. Rates for prisoners and persons in community-based corrections are expressed per 100,000 adult population. Imprisonment rates are calculated based on two different counting concepts (average daily and first day of the month). As a result, there may be variations in imprisonment rates presented in this publication.

The Australian adult ERP used in the calculation of rates includes only persons aged 18 years and over in each state and territory for that reference period. Prior to 2019, persons aged 17 years and over were included in the ERP for Queensland (see Scope section).

Rates for the total adult prisoner population and persons in community-based corrections are calculated using the estimated resident population (ERP) for each of the states and territories. All estimates for the Australian Capital Territory exclude Jervis Bay Territory. All estimates for Australia exclude the external territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Island. As the population changes over time the denominator used for the calculation of rates varies, depending on the reference period. The most current ERP data available at the time of publication are used to calculate rates as follows: 

  • for the March quarter, ERP is from the previous September quarter;
  • for the June quarter, ERP is from the previous December quarter;
  • for the September quarter, ERP is from the previous March quarter;
  • for the December quarter, ERP is from the previous June quarter; and
  • annual rates are an average of the rates of the contributing quarters.

The ERP series are revised every five years to incorporate additional information available from the latest Census of Population and Housing. The rates per 100,000 adult persons presented in this issue have been calculated using ERP data based on the 2016 Census of Population and Housing, and have been used from June 2017. 

For population estimates and information on the methodology used to produce the ERP, see Australian Demographic Statistics.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment rates

In July 2019, the ABS published the backcast historical population estimates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons, along with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population projections in Estimates and Projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2006 to 2031. From the June quarter 2020 publication onwards, all published imprisonment rates for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adult population in this publication have been revised, using final ERP from the 2016 Census of Population and Housing. 

The adult ERP used to calculate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment rates is based on Series B projections for 30 June of the relevant calendar year. This is consistent with the decision made in 2009, following consultation with the National Corrective Services Statistics Advisory Group and other stakeholders. The publication, Estimates and Projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2006 to 2031, suggests that Series B will be the most appropriate choice for most users.

Indigenous status

The ABS conducts an ongoing programme of quality assurance to monitor and improve the quality of Indigenous status data in Corrective Services agencies (both custodial and community-based corrections). Whilst the ABS has published Indigenous status data in Corrective Services collections for a number of years, ongoing quality assurance enables better understanding of accuracy over time. 

The quality of the Indigenous status information collected and recorded in Corrective Services agencies is assessed against the ABS Standard Indigenous Question (SIQ). The SIQ is based upon self-identification by the individual who comes into contact with Corrective Services agencies. In 2010, the ABS conducted a comprehensive quality assurance review across all jurisdictions and sectors of the criminal justice system to confirm our understanding of the processes involved in recording Indigenous status and the barriers to producing quality statistics. The results of the review concluded that corrective services data are of acceptable quality and comparability for all states and territories, with the exception of Western Australia. In Western Australia, Indigenous status is determined by asking two questions rather than asking the ABS SIQ at the first meeting. This is at the discretion of the case manager and in some instances Indigenous status may be recorded from information previously collected or otherwise determined by the case manager. For this reason, caution should be exercised when comparing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data from Western Australia to other states and territories. 

Some persons in custody are recorded with an unknown Indigenous status on the information systems of corrective services agencies as their status has not been able to be obtained or recorded. Persons with Indigenous status unknown are excluded from tables 11–14. Counts of persons with an unknown Indigenous status are included in all other tables. Unknowns account for approximately 1% of prisoners in custody and 2% of persons in community-based corrections.

Comparability and significant events

New South Wales

Fine option orders are no longer an available community-based corrections sentencing option in NSW. The last Fine Default Order in NSW expired in December 2011. From the September quarter 2018 onwards, Fine option order will appear as not applicable. 

The NSW Sentencing Reform commencing on 24 September 2018 impacted on data for the December quarter 2018. The Reform introduced new community-based corrections (CBC) order types: Community Correction Order (CCO) and Conditional Release Order (CRO) which were both mapped to ABS CBC order type Sentenced probation. Since its introduction a large number of offenders have been sentenced to CCOs. In the December quarter 2018, the NSW Sentencing Reform drove increases in persons serving CBC orders and thus caution should be used when comparing this data with historical information. 

Sentenced probation data for the December quarter 2017 to the September quarter 2018 inclusive were revised in the December quarter 2018 publication. Comparisons of national and NSW Sentenced probation data from the December quarter 2018 to earlier quarters should be made with caution. 

Persons serving community-based corrections data and Bail data for the June quarter 2018 to the June quarter 2019 inclusive were revised in the December quarter 2019. Comparisons of national and NSW persons in community-based corrections data and Bail data in the December quarter 2019 publication to earlier quarters should be made with caution. 

Data for the 30 June 2019 Age Standardised Community-based Corrections datacube have been revised to include additional NSW bail supervision data. These orders had previously been omitted from the age standardised community-based corrections data and have since been updated in the June quarter 2020 publication. It is strongly recommended that age standardised community-based corrections data for NSW and Australia in the June quarter 2019 publication are not used for historical comparisons.

Victoria

Comparisons of Fine default data from March quarter 2018 to earlier data should be made with caution due to the impact of the Fines Reform Act 2014 commencing on 31 December 2017.

Queensland

The following events have impacted on Queensland Fine default data: 

  • State Penalties and Enforcement Registry (SPER) Fine Option Orders were phased out from November 2017 and were replaced by SPER Work and Development Orders. This change has impacted on data since December quarter 2017. Comparisons of Queensland Fine default data from December quarter 2017 onwards to earlier data should be made with caution due to impact of the transition from SPER Fine Option Orders to Work and Development Orders. 
  • As of December 2019, only persons with existing supervision orders were eligible to receive SPER Work and Development Orders. This change has impacted on data since December quarter 2019. Comparisons of Queensland Fine default data from December quarter 2019 onwards to earlier data should be made with caution due to later changes for SPER Work and Development Orders.

South Australia

Post-sentenced persons in full-time custody are included in data for sentenced persons in full-time custody.

Western Australia

Data for community-based corrections orders extracted from the Western Australian information system are subject to data processing time lags of 4-6 weeks. 

Comparisons of community-based corrections orders from the September quarter 2018 onwards to earlier data should be made with caution due to data quality improvements done to the Western Australia Corrective Services statistical processing system.

Tasmania

In Tasmania, Home Detention Orders commenced in March 2019 and appear from April 2019 for the first day of month data. Home Detention Orders are counted in the Restricted Movement category.

Northern Territory

In March 2012, the Northern Territory introduced two new sentencing options, the Community Custody Order for non-violent and non-sexual offenders facing an imprisonment period of less than 12 months, and the Community-based Order for non-violent offenders and non-sexual offenders not facing an imprisonment period. These orders are both counted under Sentenced Probation and are included in the data from the June quarter 2012. 

A review of the Sentence Management Manual and classification process has resulted in the reclassification of additional prisoners to open custody. Any comparisons of open custody data between the December quarter 2014 onwards and previous quarters should be made with caution.

Fine option data for the Northern Territory are included from the December quarter 2020 onward. Prior to the December quarter 2020 Fine option data were not available.

Australian Capital Territory

The ACT has changed its counting methodology for persons serving community-based corrections orders from the September quarter 2014 onwards. This means that persons who have completed their community-based corrections orders prior to the order expiry date will no longer be counted in community-based corrections counts, as was done in previous quarters. The specific community-based corrections orders affected include parole, bail and sentenced probation: 

  • This change means that any comparisons of ACT parole, bail and sentenced probation data, as well as total persons serving community-based corrections orders in the ACT, between the September quarter 2014 onwards and previous quarters should be made with caution. 
  • This change also had consequential impacts on the national data for these community-based corrections orders from the September quarter 2014. Caution should be used when comparing with previous national data for parole, bail and sentenced probation orders.

Australia

A post-sentence order is a court order which subjects an offender to extended detention in prison or supervision in the community by corrective services following the completion of a custodial sentence. Post-sentence orders are made by a court where an offender has a history of serious offending, usually involving sexual or violent offences, and it determines that there is an unacceptable risk that the offender will commit further similar offences if released from prison or into the community without supervision. 

From the June quarter 2015 reference period, data for custodial and community based post-sentence orders are reported in separate categories. Prior to the June quarter 2015 reference period, post-sentence data were included in the sentenced prisoner and sentenced probation totals respectively. 

Victoria has only been able to provide post-sentence data from the June quarter 2016. Post-sentence custodial data are currently not applicable (due to being not available as an order or not available for data provision) for South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. 

South Australia has only been able to provide post-sentence community-based corrections data from the December quarter 2016. Post-sentence community-based corrections data are currently not applicable (due to being not available as an order or not available for data provision) for Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. 

Federal sentenced prisoners data for the March quarter 2020 has been revised. Comparisons of Federal sentenced prisoners data from June quarter 2020 onwards to the March quarter 2020 publication should be made with caution.

Flow Data

The Flow Data datacube contains counts of prisoner receptions by legal status, sex and Indigenous status. Legal status for this data reflects only the status at point of reception (sentenced or unsentenced). This does not capture any change in legal status during the period of imprisonment.  

Please note that the previously published ‘sentenced prisoner receptions’ data item has been replaced by the sentenced receptions data in the Flow Data tables. The new receptions data are deemed a more accurate measure of prisoner flows through the corrective services system than the previous ‘sentenced prisoner receptions’ data.

Age standardisation

Age standardisation is a statistical method that adjusts crude rates to account for age differences between study populations. The age standardised rates presented in this publication are based on the direct method of calculation, for more information please see Appendix 1 of Deaths, Australia, 2010. 

There are differences in the age distributions between Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous populations with the former having a much younger population. In 2001, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 40 years and over was 20%, compared with 44% of non-Indigenous people (and 43% of the total Australian population). Refer to Australian Demographic Statistics for more information. 

Due to these differing age profiles, using crude rates to examine differences between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous populations may lead to erroneous conclusions being drawn about variables that are correlated with age. 

Based on comparisons across age groups, it is known that community-based corrections rates are lower among older people, i.e. that the community-based corrections rate is correlated with age. Further, based on a comparison of overall community-based corrections rates between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous persons, it is likely that the community-based corrections rate in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population will be higher because of the larger proportion of young people in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. 

Standardised rates used the age distribution of total persons in the Australian population at 30 June 2001 as the standard population. The standard population is revised every 25 years; the next revision will be based on final data from the 2026 Census.

Age standardised community-based corrections data cube

The Age Standardised Community-Based Corrections data cube contains counts, crude rates and age standardised rates for persons who are serving adult community-based orders in Australia. Data are presented by sex, Indigenous status and age as of 30 June. Statistics in this data cube are derived from information provided to the ABS from administrative records held by corrective services agencies within each state and territory. 

The scope of the community-based corrections statistics in the Age Standardised Community-Based Corrections data cube differ slightly to the community-based corrections data in the Corrective Services, Australia data cube. The Age Standardised Community-Based Corrections data cube includes all adult persons serving a community-based order in each state and territory in Australia as of 30 June. Persons serving a community-based corrections order that have unknown age, sex or Indigenous status have been excluded from the Age Standardised Community-Based Corrections data cube. Therefore, data from the Age Standardised Community-Based Corrections data cube (based on 30 June data) are not directly comparable with community-based correction data from the Corrective Services Australia data cube (based on first day of the month data).

Related publications

ABS and non-ABS publications

ABS publications

Current publications and other products released by the ABS are available here on the ABS website. The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the website that details products to be released in the week ahead. The National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics can be contacted by email through crime.justice@abs.gov.au.

Non-ABS publications

Australian Institute of Criminology, List of Publications - irregular
http://www.aic.gov.au  

Crime Research Centre, University of Western Australia, Crime and Justice Statistics for Western Australia - issued annually
http://www.law.uwa.edu.au/research/crc  

Department of Corrective Services, New South Wales, NSW Inmate Census - irregular
http://www.correctiveservices.justice.nsw.gov.au/  

Department of Justice, Northern Territory, Northern Territory Quarterly Crime and Justice Statistics - issued quarterly
http://www.nt.gov.au/law/  

NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, New South Wales Custody Statistics - issued quarterly
http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/  

Steering Committee for the Review of Commonwealth/State Service Provision, Report on Government Services - issued annually
http://www.pc.gov.au 

Department of Justice and Regulation, Corrections Victoria, Monthly prisoner and offender statistics - issued monthly
http://www.corrections.vic.gov.au

Glossary

Corrective services publication terminology

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoner

A prisoner who self-identifies as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, or both.

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 Age standardisation section).

Bail

This is generally a pre-sentence option where a person is released into the community for a period before they appear in court for trial or final sentencing. Bail orders can require a financial surety to be lodged with the court, and a number of conditions including supervision and residential requirements designed to ensure the re-appearance of the person at court. Bail counts are available only in states and territories where bail orders are supervised by corrective services. Bail is a sub-category of Supervision where the person is under the supervision of Corrective Services (see Supervision).

Community-based corrections

This refers to the community-based management of court-ordered sanctions, post-prison administrative arrangements and fine conversions, which principally involve the provision of one or more of the following activities: supervision, programs or community work.

Community service

This category of community-based corrections orders includes sentencing options requiring offenders to undertake a specified number of hours of unpaid, supervised work to benefit the community on an approved project. Community service is a sub-category of Reparation (see Reparation).

Corrective services custody

Confinement in a place intended primarily for the purpose of confining prisoners, such as a prison, prison farm, Periodic Detention Centre or Community Custody Centre.

Episode

A continuous period of imprisonment.

Federal sentenced prisoner

Persons charged and sentenced under a Commonwealth statute or transferred from another country to serve their sentence in Australia.

Fine option

A community-based sentence type where the offender is serving a sentence for default of a fine. In most jurisdictions this order type requires an offender to complete community service as a reparatory act. Fine option is a sub-category of Reparation (see Reparation).

Full-time prison custody

A type of custody where a prisoner is required to be held in custody on a full-time basis. This includes prisons, Queensland Community Custody Centres and work outreach camps. Full-time prison custody excludes periodic detention (see Periodic detention).

Home detention

(see Restricted movement)

Legal status

A person may be either sentenced or unsentenced depending on the warrant(s) or court order(s) that provide the legal basis for the administration of the person through the criminal justice system.

Non-Indigenous

A prisoner who does not identify as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin.

Open custody

Refers to prisoners housed in minimum security custodial facilities that do not require them to be confined by a secure perimeter physical barrier, irrespective of whether a physical barrier exists.

Parole

A parole order is made following a period of imprisonment and requires an offender to be subject to supervision in the community. Additional conditions may also be applied such as programs, counselling or drug testing. Parole is a sub-category of Supervision (see Supervision).

Post-sentence detention orders

A post-sentence detention order is an order which subjects an offender to extended detention in prison following the completion of a custodial sentence. Post-sentence detention orders are made by a court where an offender has a history of serious offending, usually involving sexual or violent offences, and it determines that there is an unacceptable risk that the offender will commit further similar offences if released from prison.

Post-sentence supervision orders

A post-sentence supervision order is an order which subjects an offender to extended supervision in the community by corrective services following the completion of a custodial sentence. Post-sentence orders are made by a court where an offender has a history of serious offending, usually involving sexual or violent offences, and it determines that there is an unacceptable risk that the offender will commit further similar offences if released into the community without supervision.

Prisoner

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

Reception

A reception refers to the entry into full-time adult corrective services custody from the community. Prisoners who have transferred from another jurisdiction are counted as a reception. Prisoners who have transferred from another custodial facility within the jurisdiction are not counted as a reception. Prisoners already in custody who receive a further sentence of imprisonment are not counted as another reception.

Remand

(see Unsentenced)

Reparation

Reparation refers to all offenders with an order that requires them to undertake unpaid, justice agency-approved community service work.

Restricted movement

This refers to persons who are subject to a system of restricted movement, including supervision and/or electronic monitoring. This category includes home detention that may restrict residence to a nominated place. Restricted movement can be either a pre-sentence or post-sentence order.

Secure custody

Refers to prisoners housed in medium or maximum security custodial facilities requiring them to be confined by a secure physical barrier.

Sentenced

A legal status indicating that a person has received a custodial or community-based order from a court in response to a conviction for an offence.

Sentenced probation

A supervision order made following an original sentence handed down in court following conviction. A probation order generally requires 'good behaviour' and compliance with the directions of supervisors. The order may also require compliance with conditions such as program attendance and residential requirements.

Supervision (compliance)

This includes community-based orders other than those categorised as restricted movement or reparation (e.g. parole, bail and sentenced probation).

Unsentenced

A legal status indicating that a person is confined to custody or supervision while awaiting the outcome of their trial.

Abbreviations

ABS abbreviations

 
ABSAustralian Bureau of Statistics
ACTAustralian Capital Territory
Aust.Australia
ERPestimated resident population
NCCJSNational Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics
NSWNew South Wales
NTNorthern Territory
n.a.not applicable or not available
n.p.not published
QldQueensland
SASouth Australia
Tas.Tasmania
Vic.Victoria
WAWestern Australia