Why is the NSW prison population growing?


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Release date: Thursday 15 May, 2014   Embargo: 10.30AM,

Between late September 2012 and late March 2014, the NSW prison population rose by 13 per cent, reaching a record high in March this year of 10,917.

If the current trend in inmate numbers continues, the NSW prison population will likely rise by another 17 per cent (to about 12,500 inmates) by March 2015.

These findings emerged from a new report on prison population growth, released today by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

According to the Bureau, the rapid increase in prisoner numbers is due to two factors: higher arrest rates and tougher penalties.

Over the last twelve months there have been significant increases in rates of arrest for obtaining a benefit by deception, driving while licence is disqualified or suspended, burglary/break and enter, serious assault resulting in injury and dealing and trafficking in illicit drugs.

The proportion of convicted offenders given a prison sentence has also increased, particularly for drug importation and aggravated sexual assault.

In the former case the percentage of convicted offenders imprisoned rose by 15.6 percentage points. In the case of aggravated sexual assault, the percentage imprisoned rose by 10.8 percentage points.

Increases in the proportion of convicted offenders imprisoned are also for theft, dealing and trafficking in drugs, aggravated robbery and obtain benefit by deception.

Commenting on the findings, the Director of the Bureau said the increase in arrests in most cases was not the result of an increase in crime.

"Over the past 24 months, for example, there have been falls in break and enter and stealing from the person. Recorded rates of crime in most of the other categories of offence that have seen increased numbers of arrests have remained stable.

The only offences for which we have both clear evidence of an increase in crime and an increase in arrests are murder and obtain benefit by deception."         

Further enquiries:Dr Don Weatherburn 02 9231 9190

Copies of the report: www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au