Jails were on the front page of the Melbourne Age last week, with news that the number of prisoners awaiting trial or sentencing in Victoria has almost doubled since Daniel Andrews’s Labor government came to power in late 2014. The state’s shadow corrections minister, Edward O’Donohue, says the blow-out reflects “chaos and dysfunction” in that state’s courts and Labor’s failure to manage heavier judicial caseloads. He’s wrong: the trend is neither unique to Victoria nor unique to one side of politics.
What is true is that prisoner numbers have grown significantly, and a big part of the reason is a jump in the number of people on remand, who now make up a third of Victoria’s prisoners. The vast majority are awaiting trial, with a much smaller number waiting to be sentenced. That might seem a surprisingly high figure, but it’s by no means the highest in the nation: South Australia tops the charts with an astonishing 41 per cent. In fact, Victoria is almost exactly in line with the national figure of 32 per cent.