Latest release

Prisoners in Australia

Contains annual national information on prisoners in custody at 30 June, including demographic information, imprisonment rates, most serious offence.

Reference period
2020

Key statistics

From 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020, Australian prisoners decreased by 5% (1,968) to 41,060.  This was the first national decrease since 2011.  The imprisonment rate also decreased by 7% from 219 to 202 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.

There have been various government restrictions implemented across states and territories as a result of COVID-19 since March 2020. These restrictions may have had an impact on criminal activity and the justice system.

Download
Download

From 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020:

  • Sentenced prisoners decreased by 3% (872) and unsentenced prisoners decreased by 8% (1,113).
  • Male prisoners decreased by 4% (1,630) and female prisoners decreased by 10% (350).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners increased by 2% (226).
  • Prisoners with prior adult imprisonment decreased by 2% (494) and prisoners without prior adult imprisonment decreased by 8% (1,487).
     

There were decreases in all states and territories, except South Australia.

Download

(a) For a definition of most serious offence/charge, see Methodology, Most serious offence/charge section.

From 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020, the largest numerical decreases by offence/charge were for:

  • Illicit drug offences, down by 7% (449)
  • Acts intended to cause injury, down by 4% (357)
  • Theft, down by 21% (320)
  • Unlawful entry with intent, down by 7% (278).
     

The largest numerical increase by offence/charge was for Sexual assault and related offences, up 2% (127). 

Prisoner characteristics, Australia

Sex

Download

(a) For a definition of most serious offence/charge, see Methodology, Most serious offence/charge section.

From 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020, male prisoners decreased by 4% (1,630) to 37,908.  The largest decreases by offence/charge were:

  • Illicit drug offences, down 6% (371)
  • Acts intended to cause injury, down 3% (297)
  • Theft, down 20% (255)
  • Unlawful entry with intent, down 6% (229)
  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences, down 35% (186).
     

Over the same period, female prisoners decreased by 10% (350) to 3,144. The largest decreases by offence/charge were:

  • Illicit drug offences, down 10% (79)
  • Theft, down 28% (73)
  • Fraud/deception, down 24% (59)
  • Unlawful entry with intent, down 17% (58)
  • Acts intended to cause injury, down 8% (55)

Age

As at 30 June 2020, the median age was:

  • 35.2 years for all prisoners
  • 35.3 years for males
  • 34.5 years for females
  • Highest at 44.6 years for Sexual assault and related offences
  • Lowest at 29.8 years for Robbery/extortion.
     

Prisoners aged between 25 and 34 years made up over a third of both males (36%) and females (38%) in the prisoner population.

Country of birth

As at 30 June 2020, four in every five prisoners were born in Australia (81% or 33,406 prisoners).  Prisoners born overseas accounted for 16% (6,707) of all prisoners.

The most common countries of birth for prisoners born overseas were:

  • New Zealand (3% of total prisoners or 1,048).
  • Vietnam (2% or 789).
  • United Kingdom (1% or 602).
     

Illicit drug offences accounted for almost a third (31% or 2,089) of prisoners born overseas.

Legal Status

Download

(a) For a definition of most serious offence/charge, see Methodology, Most serious offence/charge section.

From 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020, sentenced prisoners decreased by 3% (872) to 27,849:

  • Illicit drug offences decreased by 5% (222)
  • Theft decreased by 18% (181)
  • Traffic & vehicle regulatory offences decreased by 35% (180)
  • Offences against justice decreased by 5% (144)
  • Sexual assault and related offences increased by 4% (150).
     

Over the same period, unsentenced prisoners decreased by 8% (1,113) to 13,097:

  • Acts intended to cause injury decreased by 5% (236)
  • Illicit drug offences decreased by 10% (227)
  • Unlawful entry with intent decreased by 17% (178)
  • Theft decreased by 26% (138)
  • Offences against justice increased by 12% (70).
     

The proportion of unsentenced prisoners decreased from 33% to 32%.

As at 30 June 2020, median aggregate sentence was:

  • 3.5 years for all prisoners
  • 16.7 years for Homicide and related offences
  • 7.5 years for Sexual assault and related offences
  • 0.8 years for Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences
     

Median expected time to serve was 2.1 years.

Median time spent on remand was 3.4 months.

Most serious offence/charge

Download

(a) For a definition of most serious offence/charge, see Methodology, Most serious offence/charge section.

At 30 June 2020, the most common offences/charges were:

  • Acts intended to cause injury (9,467 or 23%)
  • Illicit drug offences (6,124 or 15%)
  • Sexual assault and related offences (5,798 or 14%)
     

At 30 June 2020, for sentenced prisoners, the most common offences were:

  • Acts intended to cause injury made up 5,078 prisoners (18%).  Assault made up over 19 in 20 of these prisoners (4,829).
  • Sexual assault and related offences made up 4,420 prisoners (16%).  Sexual assault made up nearly nine in ten of these prisoners (3,967).
  • Illicit drug offences made up 4,008 prisoners (14%).  Dealing or trafficking in illicit drugs made up over two-thirds of these prisoners (2,791).
     

For unsentenced prisoners, the most common charges were:

  • Acts intended to cause injury made up 4,390 prisoners (34%).  Assault made up almost 19 in 20 of these prisoners (4,117).
  • Illicit drug offences made up 2,121 prisoners (16%).  Dealing or trafficking in illicit drugs made up nearly four-fifths of these prisoners (1,647).
  • Sexual assault and related offences made up 1,379 prisoners (11%).  Sexual assault made up nearly 17 in 20 of these prisoners (1,165).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners

Download

(a) For a definition of most serious offence/charge, see Methodology, Most serious offence/charge section.

From 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners increased by 2% (226) to 12,092.  The largest movements by offence/charge were:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 4% (148)
  • Robbery/extortion, up 12% (127)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 7% (73)
  • Unlawful entry with intent, down 6% (98)
  • Theft, down 21% (84).
     

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment rate decreased by 1% from 2,304 to 2,285 prisoners per 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adult population.

 At 30 June 2020:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners made up 29% of all prisoners.
  • Male prisoners made up 91% (10,963) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners.
  • Female prisoners made up 9% (1,134).
  • The median age was 32.1 years.
  • 79% had experienced prior adult imprisonment.
     

At 30 June 2020, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sentenced prisoners:

  • Had increased by 2% (166) from 30 June 2019.
  • Made up 66% (7,982) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners.
  • Had a median aggregate sentence length of 2.5 years.
  • Had a median expected time to serve of 1.4 years. 
     

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander unsentenced prisoners:

  • Had increased by 2% (64) from 30 July 2019.
  • Made up 34% (4,075) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners.
  • Had a median time spent on remand of 3.0 months.
Download

(a) For a definition of most serious offence/charge, see Methodology, Most serious offence/charge section.

From 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander male prisoners increased by 2% (253) to 10,963.  The largest movements by offence/charge were:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 4% (148)
  • Robbery/extortion, up 10% (98)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 8% (78)
  • Unlawful entry with intent, down 5% (74).
     
Download

(a) For a definition of most serious offence/charge, see Methodology, Most serious offence/charge section.

Over the same period, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female prisoners decreased by 2% (24) to 1,134.  The largest movements by offence/charge were:

  • Theft, down 36% (30)
  • Unlawful entry with intent, down 14% (24)
  • Robbery/extortion, up 24% (29)
  • Offences against justice, up 15% (15).

State/territory

New South Wales

Download

(a) For a definition of most serious offence/charge, see Methodology, Most serious offence/charge section.

From 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020, total prisoners decreased by 5% (728) to 12,730.  The largest movements by offence/charge were:

  • Unlawful entry with intent, down 18% (169)
  • Illicit drug offences, down 6% (137)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 6% (121).
     

This was the second successive annual decrease and numerically the second largest decrease after Victoria.

The imprisonment rate decreased by 8% from 214 to 197 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.

Male prisoners decreased by 5% (615) to 11,893.  Female prisoners decreased by 12% (114) to 836.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners increased by 7% (231) to 3,335.  This was the largest numerical increase for any of the states and territories.  The largest movements by offence/charge were:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 12% (126)
  • Illicit drug offences, up 61% (70)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 22% (59).
     

Sentenced prisoners decreased by 4% (337) to 8,586. Unsentenced prisoners decreased by 8% (383) to 4,148. 

Prisoners with prior adult imprisonment decreased by 5% (364) to 6,830. Prisoner without prior adult imprisonment decreased by 6% (371) to 5,896.

Victoria

Download

(a) For a definition of most serious offence/charge, see Methodology, Most serious offence/charge section.

From 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020, total prisoners decreased by 12% (952) to 7,149. The largest decreases by offence charge were:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, down 14% (222)
  • Theft, down 29% (128)
  • Illicit drug offences, down 10% (111).

 

This was numerically the largest decrease for any of the states and territories and the first decrease since the beginning of the time series in 2010. 

The imprisonment rate decreased by 15% from 157 to 134 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.

Male prisoners decreased by 10% (777) to 6,748.  Female prisoners decreased by 31% (177) to 401.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners decreased by 14% (118) to 722.  The largest decreases by offence/charge were:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, down 12% (28)
  • Unlawful entry with intent, down 19% (24)
  • Illicit drug offences, down 40% (17).

 

Sentenced prisoners decreased by 9% (463) to 4,664. Unsentenced prisoners decreased by 17% (495) to 2,479.

Prisoners with prior adult imprisonment decreased by 11% (435) to 3,626. Prisoner without prior adult imprisonment decreased by 13% (518) to 3,521.

Queensland

Download

(a) For a definition of most serious offence/charge, see Methodology, Most serious offence/charge section.

From 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020, total prisoners decreased by 1% (114) to 8,657.  The largest movements by offence/charge were:

  • Illicit drug offences, down 6% (76)
  • Acts intended to cause injury, down 3% (56)
  • Unlawful entry with intent, up 6% (58).
     

The imprisonment rate decreased by 5% from 225 to 215 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.

Male prisoners remained stable at 7,894. Female prisoners decreased by 10% (87) to 766.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners increased by 6% (165) to 3,038.  This was the second largest numerical increase after New South Wales.  There were increases in the offences/charges of:

  • Unlawful entry with intent, up 12% (46)
  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 5% (44)
  • Offences against justice, up 16% (39).
     

Sentenced prisoners increased by 1% (57) to 6,071. Unsentenced prisoners decreased by 7% (179) to 2,534.

Prisoners with prior adult imprisonment increased by 5% (273) to 5,959.  Prisoner without prior adult imprisonment decreased by 13% (392) to 2,696.

South Australia

Download

(a) For a definition of most serious offence/charge, see Methodology, Most serious offence/charge section.

From 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020, total prisoners increased by 4% (124) to 2,986.  The largest movements by offence/charge were:  

  • Offences against justice, up 21% (76)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 5% (20)
  • Property damage and environmental pollution, up 50% (20)
  • Public order offences, down 57% (20).
     

This was the only state or territory to experience an increase in prisoner counts for the year. 

The imprisonment rate increased by 2% from 207 to 211 prisoners per 100,000 adult population. 

Male prisoners increased by 4% (94) to 2,758. Female prisoners increased by 19% (38) to 235. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners increased by 3% (20) to 701.

Sentenced prisoners decreased by 2% (30) to 1,721. Unsentenced prisoners increased by 14% (156) to 1,249.

Prisoners with prior adult imprisonment increased by 6% (100) to 1,698. Prisoner without prior adult imprisonment increased by 2% (29) to 1,292.

Western Australia

Download

(a) For a definition of most serious offence/charge, see Methodology, Most serious offence/charge section.

From 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020, total prisoners decreased by 2% (173) to 6,770.  This was the first decrease since 2013.  The largest movements by offence/charge were:

  • Illicit drug offences, down 7% (102)
  • Unlawful entry with intent, down 7% (75)
  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 6% (72).
     

The imprisonment rate decreased by 5% from 345 to 326 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.

Male prisoners decreased by 3% (167) to 6,055. Female prisoners remained steady at 716. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners decreased by 1% (14) to 2,666. 

Sentenced prisoners decreased by 1% (58) to 4,899, and unsentenced prisoners decreased by 6% (116) to 1,841.

Prisoners with prior adult imprisonment remained steady at 4,299. Prisoner without prior adult imprisonment decreased by 6% (171) to 2,469.

Tasmania

Download

(a) For a definition of most serious offence/charge, see Methodology, Most serious offence/charge section.

From 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020, total prisoners decreased by 4% (25) to 668.  This was the first decrease since 2014.  The largest movements by offence/charge were:

  • Unlawful entry with intent, down 27% (14)
  • Offences against justice, down 20% (11)
  • Robbery/extortion, up 35% (19).
     

The imprisonment rate decreased by 6% from 165 to 154 prisoners per 100,000 adult population. 

Male prisoners decreased by 4% (25) to 610. Female prisoners increased by 7% from 55 to 59. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners increased by 4% from 140 to 145. 

Sentenced prisoners increased by 3% (12) to 467, and unsentenced prisoners decreased by 16% (37) to 194.

Prisoners with prior adult imprisonment increased by 3% (11) to 444. Prisoner without prior adult imprisonment decreased by 11% (29) to 229.

Northern Territory

Download

(a) For a definition of most serious offence/charge, see Methodology, Most serious offence/charge section.

From 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020, total prisoners decreased by 6% (97) to 1,634.  The largest movements by offence/charge were:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, down 7% (53)
  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences decreased by 46% (26)
  • Offences against justice increased by 33% (48).
     

This was the second successive decrease and proportionally the second largest decrease after Victoria.

The imprisonment rate decreased by 7% from 943 to 875 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.

Male prisoners decreased by 5% (83) to 1,538. Female prisoners decreased by 18% (20) to 94.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners decreased by 5% (72) to 1,371.

Sentenced prisoners decreased by 5% (55) to 1,152. Unsentenced prisoners decreased by 7% (39) to 484.

Prisoners with prior adult imprisonment decreased by 4% (56) to 1,210. Prisoner without prior adult imprisonment decreased by 9% (41) to 426.

Australian Capital Territory

Download

(a) For a definition of most serious offence/charge, see Methodology, Most serious offence/charge section.

From 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020, total prisoners decreased by 5% (25) to 449.  This was the second successive annual decrease. The largest movements by offence/charge were:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, down 10% (14)
  • Robbery/extortion, up 41% (14).
     

The imprisonment rate decreased by 7% from 143 to 133 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.

Male prisoners decreased by 7% (31) to 413. Female prisoners increased by 18% from 33 to 39.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners increased by 12% (12) to 116. 

Sentenced prisoners increased by 2% from 276 to 281, and unsentenced prisoners decreased by 13% (24) to 166.

Prisoners with prior adult imprisonment decreased by 5% (18) to 349. Prisoner without prior adult imprisonment remained stable at 101.

Federal Offender characteristics

Download
Federal prisoners and parolees, states and territories, 30 June 2020
State or territoryPrisonersParolees
New South Wales671152
Victoria433n.a.
Queensland15637
South Australia3122
Western Australia16514
Tasmania103
Northern Territory140*
Australian Capital Territory58

*nil or rounded to zero

At 30 June 2020:

  • Males accounted for the majority of federal offenders, with at least nine in ten federal prisoners and eight in ten federal parolees being male.
  • 5% of federal prisoners and 3% of federal parolees were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
  • The median age for federal prisoners ranged from 36.8 years in Victoria to 42.6 years in the Northern Territory.
  • New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia accounted for 95% of all federal prisoners.

 
From 2019 to 2020:

  • The number of federal prisoners increased by 2% or 23 prisoners.
  • Males increased by 4% or 53 prisoners, while females decreased by 25% or 33 prisoners.
  • The largest increase was in New South Wales (up 7% or 42 prisoners).
  • The largest decreases were in Western Australia (down 10% or 19 prisoners) and Queensland (down 8% or 14 prisoners).

 

 

Download

Data downloads

Prisoners in Australia data cubes

Data files

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4517.0.

Post-release changes

8 April 2021: New information has been released on statistics about federal offenders (prisoners and parolees) under the authority of corrective services agencies at 30 June 2020. Additionally, expanded imprisonment rates data on prisoners in custody has also be included.