Prison Populations and Correctional Outlays: The effect of reducing re-imprisonment                

Click here for the full report (pdf, 711Kb)

Release date: 5 March 2010

New research by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has shown that modest reductions in the rate at which offenders are re-imprisoned would result in substantial savings in prisoner numbers and correctional outlays.

At present 58 per cent of all persons given a prison sentence are re-imprisoned at some later point in time. For those who are re-imprisoned, the average time to the next prison sentence is 13 months.

In the case of Indigenous prisoners, the rate of return to prison (74 per cent) is even higher. The average time to the next prison sentence for Indigenous offenders given a prison sentence is 11 months.

The Bureau estimated that a 10 per cent reduction in the overall re-imprisonment rate (from 58 to 52 per cent) would reduce the prison population by more than 800 inmates, saving $28 million per year.

A 10 per cent reduction in the Indigenous re-imprisonment rate (from 74 to 66 percent) would reduce the Indigenous sentenced prisoner population by 336 inmates, resulting in savings of more than $10 million per annum.

Prison populations and prison costs at the moment are at an all time high. Between 1998 and 2008, the Australian imprisonment rate (per capita) rose 20 per cent. In 2008, net recurrent and capital expenditure on prisons in Australia exceeded $2.6 billion per annum.

The report notes that State and Territory Governments around Australia have tried to contain prison population growth in the past through the creation of alternatives to custody. Most of these alternatives, however, had been used on offenders would not have gone to prison anyway.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Don Weatherburn said that they highlighted the value of investment in post-release offender rehabilitation.

"The surprise in our research is that if you want to reduce the size of the prison population and the cost of imprisonment, it's better to focus on reducing the number of offenders coming back to prison than the number going to prison in the first place."

Further Enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn. Ph. 9231-9190 or 0419-494-408