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Prisoners in NSW

Over one third (37%) of the total Australian prisoner population is located in New South Wales.1 Compared to just 32.6% of the general Australian population living in NSW.2 There are currently over 10,000 people in prison on any one day in NSW, with up to 30,000 people cycling through the NSW prison system each year. Nearly half of these people will be back in prison within two years. Drug and alcohol use is often a contributory factor for those in this cycle of reoffending, and re-imprisonment.

How Many People are in NSW Prisons?

On the 30 June 20094

  • 11,160 people were in custody in NSW4
  • 92.3% were male and 7.47% were female
  • 21.3% of the full-time prison population were Aboriginal
  • 75% of prisoners were Australian born
  • 67.2% of prisoners had experienced previous adult imprisonment
  • 30,656 people went into custody over 2008/09.

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Numbers on the Increase

There was a 50.3% increase in the yearly prison population between the financial years of 1992/1993 until 2006/2007.5 Conversely, crime rates have stabilised or declined in most categories over that time and continue to stabilise and reduce between 2004 and 20086

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Why So Many More Prisoners?

There has been a shift in both legislation and political agendas in NSW that has led to a strengthening of 'tough on crime' policies and a resulting increase in imprisonment rates. Legislation changes include the NSW Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Amendment (Standard minimum Sentencing) Act 2002 and changes to the Bail Act (2002). This has seen an increase in the number of people in custody on short sentences and the removal of the presumption of bail being granted. This meant that in 2006/2007, over 10,000 people who were held on remand were later released without a conviction. 5

At the same time NSW imprisonment rates are increasing, crime in NSW is decreasing. Recorded crime statistics in 2009 indicate that none of the major categories of crime showed any increase, property crime reduced and violent crime was stable7. Research from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research found there is a strong relationship between criminal activity and the extent of long term unemployment; a negative association between criminal activity and high school completion rates; and that dominant factors in reducing property crime rates appeared to be 'a reduction in heroin use, rising average weekly earnings and falling long term unemployment.'8

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What are Prisoners Security Classifications?

Of the 11,160 people in custody (sentenced and unsentenced) on 30 June 2009:4

  • 53% were classed as a minimum security classification.
  • 20.4% were classed as a medium security classification.
  • 15.2% were classed as a maximum security classification.
  • 4.2% of prisoners were unclassified.
  • 7.1% of prisoners were on periodic detention.

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How Long do People Stay in Prison? (Sentenced and unsentenced) on 30 June 20094

  • 7.1% of prisoners were on periodic detention.
  • 28.7% of prisoners serve less than two years.
  • 14.8% of prisoners serve between 2 and 5 years.
  • 21.7% of prisoners serve between 5 and 20 years
  • 3% of prisoners serve 20 years or more.
  • 1.3% of prisoners are serving life/forensic patient.
  • 23.4% of prisoners are unsentenced with no fixed date of release.

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A selection of the references used in No Bars along with other related publications can be found on the Research And Publications page.

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2010) Prisoners in Australia, 4517.0, 2008 www.abs.gov.au
  2. 2Australian Bureau of Statistics, Population by Age, Sex, Regions of Australia, 3235.0, 2008, www.abs.gov.au
  3. NSW Corrective Services (2010) Facts & Figures: Corporate Research, Evaluation & Statistics, 10th Edition, May 2010.
  4. Corben, S. (2010) NSW Inmate Census 2009: Summary of Characteristics, Sydney: Corrective Services NSW.
  5. Lulham, R. & Fitzgerald, J. (2008) 'Trends in Bail and sentencing outcomes in NSW Criminal Courts: 1993 - 2007', Crime & Justice Bulletin: Contemporary Issues in Crime & Justice, Number 124, November 2008.
  6. NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (2009), NSW Current Trends in recorded crime statistics 2004- 2008, NSW Government, www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/bocsar/ll_bocsar.nsf/pages/bocsar_trends_nsw
  7. NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (2009) NSW Recorded Crime Statistics 2009, NSW Government, www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/bocsar/ll_bocsar.nsf/pages/bocsar_mr_rcs09
  8. Chapman, D. et al. (2002) 'Unemployment duration, schooling and property crime', Crime and Justice Bulletin 74 BOCSAR December 2002 quoted in Crime and Justice Reform Committee Fact Sheet 'The Limited Benefit of Prison in Controlling Crime: Does incarceration increase or decrease crime?' http://www.crimeandjustice.org.au

There are over 10,000 people in jail in NSW on any given day.

Approximately 80% of prisoners connect their AOD dependence to their offending behaviour and imprisonment.

60 - 80% of this group were intoxicated at the time of committing their offence.