Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research

Department of Justice is now the Department of Communities and Justice.  Find out more >

The impact of the 2018 Sentencing Reforms on reoffending

Release Date: Tuesday 22 March 2022

Link to report summary - Have the 2018 NSW sentencing reforms reduced the risk of re-offending?

New laws which increased the use of supervised community sentences do not appear to have reduced reoffending according to a new evaluation by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR).

The September 2018 sentencing reforms gave judges and magistrates access to new, more flexible community sentencing options.  These new sentencing options allowed judicial officers to customise community-based orders to include supervision, home detention, electronic monitoring, community service, place restrictions and curfews as conditions of an order. Suspended sentences and home detention orders were also abolished and replaced with a new type of Intensive Correction Order.   

Past research has shown that the reforms were successful in reducing short-term prison sentences and increasing supervised community sentences issued by the courts.  The latest evaluation considers whether the reforms also achieved their third aim, to reduce reoffending. 

BOCSAR compared reoffending among 18,788 offenders sentenced in the Local Court immediately before the reforms were implemented with 18,153 offenders sentenced directly after.

Although the reforms significantly increased the proportion of individuals sentenced to supervision in the community, the evaluation found no evidence that this was associated with a reduction in reoffending.  The study found no change in the rate of reoffending, the time to first new offence or the likelihood that an offender would enter custody within 12 months of being sentenced.

These findings hold true for domestic violence offenders and offenders sentenced to short prison sentences or community based custodial alternatives. 

Commenting on the findings, Jackie Fitzgerald, Executive Director of BOCSAR, noted that a guiding principle behind the reform was the considerable body of evidence showing that actively supervising offenders in the community can reduce reoffending. “A possible reason why we did not find a reoffending benefit is that, at least initially, the reforms had only a small impact on the actual rate at which offenders were supervised in the community. The Community Corrections practice of prioritising supervision for higher-risk offenders means that additional supervised orders issued to lower-risk offenders would not have resulted in active supervision by Corrections’ officers.” 

Further enquiries: Jackie Fitzgerald, Executive Director, BOCSAR  0423 139 687
Email: bcsr@justice.nsw.gov.au
Copies of the report: www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au