Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research

​NSW adult prison population sets new record but growth slowing

Full report - NSW Custody Statistics: Quarterly update December 2016 (pdf 1.3mb)

Embargo: Monday 30 January 2017


The NSW prison population reached 12,729 last December, not counting prisoners held in police cells. This brings the total increase in the NSW adult prison population over the last two years to 16 per cent.

The growth in the State's prison population, however, appears to be slowing. The average annual rate of growth in the 12 months to December 2015 was 11.7 per cent. The average annual growth rate in the last 12 months (i.e. the 12 months to December 2016) was 3.8 per cent.

Most (70%) of the increase in inmate numbers has come from remand prisoners (i.e. prisoners refused bail), the number of whom rose by 7.4 per cent over the last 12 months; from 4,085 in January 2016 to 4,388 in December 2016.


In contrast to the adult prisoner population, the number of juveniles in custody has been falling rapidly over the last five years. As at December 2015, there were 250 juveniles in custody, just slightly higher than the record low of 244 in August last year.

The number of juveniles in custody has now fallen by 38 per cent, from a peak of 405 detainees in June 2011 to 250 in December 2016. Most of the decline has come from a fall in the number of juveniles refused bail by police and courts. 

Commenting on the findings, the director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), said the slowing growth in adult prisoner numbers was an encouraging sign given the rapid build-up in prisoner numbers over the last few years.

"The rapid build-up has been accompanied by an increase in police recorded assault offences, which is of obvious concern to both inmates and staff."

"The continued fall in the number of juveniles in detention is also encouraging because it reflects a decline in juvenile crime."

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn – 8346 1100
Copies of the report: www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au