Prisoners in Australia

Latest release

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

Reference period
2021

Key statistics

From 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021, Australian prisoners increased by 5% (1,910) to 42,970.  The imprisonment rate also increased by 5% from 205 to 214 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.

From 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021:

  • Sentenced prisoners decreased by 1% (169) to 27,680. Conversely, unsentenced prisoners increased by 16% (2,085) to 15,182
  • Male prisoners increased by 5% (1,772) to 39,680.  Female prisoners also increased by 5% (148) to 3,292

Prisoners with prior adult imprisonment increased by 5% (1,310) to 25,723.  Prisoners without prior adult imprisonment increased by 4% (599) to 17,227

There were increases in total prisoners in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory; and decreases in Western Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

Prisoner characteristics, Australia

Sex

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

From 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021, male prisoners increased by 5% (1,772) to 39,680:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 14% (1,204)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 6% (361)
  • Illicit drug offences, up 4% (198)

Female prisoners increased by 5% (148) to 3,292:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 16% (99)
  • Unlawful entry with intent, up 14% (39)

Age

As at 30 June 2021, the median age was:

  • 35.6 years for all prisoners
  • 35.7 years for males
  • 34.9 years for females
  • Highest at 44.5 years for Sexual assault and related offences
  • Lowest at 30.2 years for Robbery, extortion and related offences

Country of birth

As at 30 June 2021, four in every five prisoners were born in Australia (82% or 35,275 prisoners).  Prisoners born overseas accounted for 6,757 prisoners.

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

  • New Zealand (3% of total prisoners or 1,155)
  • Vietnam (2% or 712)
  • The United Kingdom (1% or 606)

From 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021, the number of prisoners born overseas with a most serious offence or charge of Illicit drug offences decreased by 5% (107).  The proportion of prisoners born overseas with these offences or charges decreased from 31% to 29%.

Legal Status

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

From 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021, sentenced prisoners decreased by 1% (169) to 27,680.  There were both increases and decreases by most serious offence:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 6% (285)
  • Unlawful entry with intent, down 8% (240)
  • Dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons, down 9% (104)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 2% (103)
  • Theft and related offences, down 10% (83)

Over the same period, unsentenced prisoners increased by 16% (2,085) to 15,182:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 23% (1,018)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 21% (288)
  • Illicit drug offences, up 10% (206)
  • Dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons, up 34% (167)

The proportion of prisoners who were unsentenced increased from 32% to 35%.

Most serious offence/charge

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

From 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021, prisoners increased by 5% (1,910) to 42,970:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 14% (1,308)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 7% (389)
  • Illicit drug offences, up 3% (201)
  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences, up 25% (96)

Over the same period, the largest decreases were for:

  • Unlawful entry with intent, down 4% (169)
  • Robbery, extortion and related offences, down 3% (104)

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners

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

From 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners increased by 8% (947) to 13,039:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 17% (685)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 9% (105)

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment rate increased by 5% from 2,294 to 2,412 prisoners per 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adult population.

At 30 June 2021:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners made up 30% of all prisoners
  • Male prisoners made up 90% (11,781) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners
  • Female prisoners made up 10% (1,260)
  • The median age was 32.8 years
  • 78% had experienced prior adult imprisonment

State/territory

New South Wales

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

From 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021, total prisoners increased by 3% (396) to 13,126.  This was the second largest annual numerical increase for any of the states and territories.  There were both increases and decreases by most serious offence/charge:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 12% (368)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 5% (102)
  • Unlawful entry with intent, down 11% (84)
  • Offences against justice, down 6% (77)

The imprisonment rate increased by 3%, up from 200 to 206 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.

Male prisoners increased by 3% (366) to 12,259.  Female prisoners increased by 4% (32) to 868.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners increased by 8% (262) to 3,597:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 14% (163)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 13% (41)

Sentenced prisoners decreased by less than 1% (32) to 8,554.  There were both increases and decreases by most serious offence:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 9% (149)
  • Unlawful entry with intent, down 20% (109)
  • Offences against justice, down 6% (79)
  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences, up 87% (67)

Unsentenced prisoners increased by 10% (426) to 4,574:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 15% (223)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 19% (103).

Prisoners with prior imprisonment increased by 3% (232) to 7,062.  Prisoners without prior imprisonment also increased by 3% (155) to 6,051.

Victoria

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

From 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021, total prisoners increased by 1% (99) to 7,248.  There were both increases and decreases by most serious offence/charge:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 15% (207)
  • Robbery, extortion and related offences, down 18% (87)
  • Unlawful entry with intent, down 5% (39)

The imprisonment rate increased by 2%, up from 136 to 139 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.

Male prisoners increased by 1% (89) to 6,837.  Female prisoners increased by 2% (8) to 409.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners increased by 6% (46) to 768.

Sentenced prisoners decreased by 13% (603) to 4,061:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, down 16% (114)
  • Robbery, extortion and related offences, down 22% (75)
  • Unlawful entry with intent, down 12% (64)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, down 7% (60)

Unsentenced prisoners increased by 28% (704) to 3,183:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 45% (320)
  • Dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons, up 44% (61)
  • Illicit drug offences, up 14% (61)

Prisoners with prior imprisonment increased by 6% (200) to 3,826.  Prisoners without prior imprisonment decreased by 3% (102) to 3,419.

Queensland

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

From 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021, total prisoners increased by 15% (1,295) to 9,952.  This was the largest annual increase, both numerically and proportionally, of any of the states and territories.  The largest increases by most serious offence/charge were:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 25% (496)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 16% (163)
  • Illicit drug offences, up 12% (155)
  • Offences against justice, up 24% (124)

The imprisonment rate increased by 14%, up from 218 to 248 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.

Male prisoners increased by 14% (1,134) to 9,028.  Female prisoners increased by 21% (162) to 928.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners increased by 15% (441) to 3,479.  Acts intended to cause injury made up over half of this increase, up 23% (235).

Sentenced prisoners increased by 13% (801) to 6,872.  Unsentenced prisoners increased by 20% (496) to 3,030.

Prisoners with prior imprisonment increased by 14% (838) to 6,797.  Prisoners without prior imprisonment increased by 17% (461) to 3,157.

South Australia

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

From 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021, total prisoners increased by 4% (119) to 3,105.  There were both increases and decreases by most serious offence/charge:

  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 16% (68)
  • Offences against justice, down 14% (59)
  • Illicit drug offences, up 15% (48)

The imprisonment rate increased by 4%, up from 214 to 221 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.

Male prisoners increased by 4% (111) to 2,869.  Female prisoners increased by 3% (8) to 243.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners increased by 6% (43) to 744.

Sentenced prisoners decreased by less than 1% (7) to 1,714.  There were both increases and decreases by most serious offence:

  • Unlawful entry with intent, down 20% (41)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 13% (41)
  • Acts intended to cause injury, down 13% (33)

Unsentenced prisoners increased by 11% (135) to 1,384.  There were both increases and decreases by most serious charge:

  • Offences against justice, down 32% (77)
  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 15% (58)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 40% (38)

Prisoners with prior imprisonment increased by 2% (37) to 1,735.  Prisoners without prior imprisonment increased by 6% (79) to 1,371.

Western Australia

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

From 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021, total prisoners decreased for the second successive year, down by 1% (54) to 6,716.   This decrease was driven by:

  • Unlawful entry with intent, down 5% (48)
  • Dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons, down 10% (46)
  • Illicit drug offences, down 2% (31)

The imprisonment rate decreased by 1%, down from 330 to 326 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.

Male prisoners increased by less than 1% (24) to 6,079.  Female prisoners decreased by 10% (75) to 641.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners were relatively stable since last year at 2,664 prisoners.

Sentenced prisoners decreased by 5% (267) to 4,632:

  • Unlawful entry with intent, down 9% (70)
  • Dangerous or negligent acts endangering person, down 16% (59)
  • Illicit drug offences, down 4% (41)

Unsentenced prisoners increased by 12% (212) to 2,053:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 11% (65)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 24% (44)

Prisoners with prior imprisonment decreased by 1% (48) to 4,251.  Prisoners without prior imprisonment were relatively stable at 2,466.

Tasmania

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

From 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021, total prisoners decreased for the second successive year, down by 4% (26) to 642.  This decrease was driven by:

  • Robbery, extortion and related offences, down 23% (17)
  • Acts intended to cause injury, down 7% (12)
  • Dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons, down 29% (10)

The imprisonment rate decreased by 4%, down from 156 to 149 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.

Male prisoners decreased by 4% (23) to 587.  Female prisoners decreased by 8% (5) to 54.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners accounted for 152 prisoners (24% of all prisoners).

Sentenced prisoners decreased by 6% (26) to 441.  There were both increases and decreases by most serious offence:

  • Offences against justice, up 159% (35)
  • Acts intended to cause injury, down 21% (22)

Unsentenced prisoners remained relatively steady since last year at 195.

Prisoners with prior imprisonment decreased by 3% (15) to 429.  Prisoners without prior imprisonment decreased by 7% (16) to 213.

Northern Territory

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

From 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021, total prisoners increased by 10% (165) to 1,799.  There were both increases and decreases by most serious offence/charge:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 29% (199)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 11% (21)
  • Offences against justice, down 10% (20)

The imprisonment rate increased by 9%, up from 887 to 971 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.

Male prisoners increased by 9% (138) to 1,676.   Female prisoners increased by 37% (35) to 129.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners increased by 12% (169) to 1,540.

Sentenced prisoners increased by 1% (11) to 1,163.  Unsentenced prisoners increased by 32% (153) to 637.

Prisoners with prior imprisonment increased by 10% (117) to 1,327.  Prisoners without prior imprisonment increased by 11% (45) to 471.

Australian Capital Territory

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

From 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021, total prisoners decreased for the third successive year, down by 16% (70) to 379.  This was the largest annual decrease, both numerically and proportionally for any of the states and territories.  There were both increases and decreases by most serious offence/charge:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, down 40% (53)
  • Offences against justice, up 44% (29)
  • Robbery, extortion and related offences, down 50% (24)

The imprisonment rate decreased by 16%, down from 135 to 113 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.

Male prisoners decreased by 14% (59) to 354.  Female prisoners decreased by 46% (18) to 21.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners decreased by 16% (18) to 98.

Sentenced prisoners decreased by 12% (33) to 248.  Unsentenced prisoners decreased by 22% (37) to 129.

Prisoners with prior imprisonment decreased by 16% (55) to 294.  Prisoners without prior imprisonment decreased by 21% (21) to 80.

Federal Offender characteristics

From 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021, federal prisoners nationally decreased by 2% (27) to 1,466.

At 30 June 2021, compared to the total prisoner population, federal prisoners:

  • Had a higher proportion of prisoners in New South Wales (48% compared to 31%) and Victoria (28% compared to 17%)
  • Had a lower proportion of prisoners in Queensland (10% compared to 23%) and Western Australia (10% compared to 16%)

On average federal prisoners were older than the total prisoner population with a median age of 39 years compared to 36 years.

Data downloads

Prisoners in Australia data cubes

Data files

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4517.0.

Post-release changes

13 April 2022: New information has been released on statistics about federal offenders (prisoners and parolees) under the authority of corrective services agencies at 30 June 2021.

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