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CJB138

Author Don Weatherburn, Gary Froyland, Steve Moffatt and Simon Corben
Published December 2009
Report Type Crime and Justice Bulletin No. 138
Subject Prisons and prisoners
Keywords imprisonment rate, prisons, prisoners

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Summary

Aim

This bulletin explores the potential savings in prison costs and prison numbers of reducing the rate at which prisoners return to custody.

Abstract

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. Efforts to reduce the prison population through the creation of alternatives to custody have not been very successful. This bulletin explores the potential savings in prison costs and prison numbers of reducing the rate at which prisoners return to custody. The results of our analysis suggest that modest reductions in the rate at which offenders are re-imprisoned would result in substantial savings in prisoner numbers and correctional outlays. A ten per cent reduction in the overall re-imprisonment rates would reduce the prison population by more than 800 inmates, saving $28 million per year. Comparable reductions in the number of new sentenced prisoners also produce benefits but they are smaller. The potential benefits of reducing the rate of re-imprisonment among subgroups of offenders with a high re-imprisonment rate are particularly noteworthy. A 10 per cent reduction in the Indigenous re-imprisonment rate, for example, would reduce the Indigenous sentenced prisoner population by 365 inmates, resulting in savings of more than $10 million per annum.

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