Making community corrections work

14 May 2018

This paper draws on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Productivity Commission, and a range of studies conducted into the effectiveness of community corrections. It finds that:

• Community corrections is growing rapidly. The national community corrections population has grown by 18.6 percent in the last two years, and 30.2 percent since 2007. (Figure 1, Table 2)

• The community corrections rate rose from 329 per 100,00 adults in September 2007 to 361 per 100,000 adults in September 2017. (Figure 3)

• The fastest growth has been seen in the use of parole orders post-incarceration, suggesting that community corrections is operating in combination with incarceration and not always as a replacement for prison time. (Table 2)

• Over the past ten years, the proportion of the community corrections population whose most serious offence was an act intended to cause injury has risen. In 2016-17, more than 42,000 offenders whose most serious offence was a violent offence were given a principal sentence in community corrections. (Figures 4 and 5)

• Across the country, courts are increasingly using community corrections as the principal punishment for violent offenders. This growth, however, has mostly come from community corrections replacing monetary orders. (Figure 6)

• In 2016-17, nationwide spending on community corrections was $589 million. This was less than $22 per offender per day, about 10 percent of the cost of prison. (Section 4-1)

• There is emerging evidence that community corrections is more effective than prison in reducing reoffending, even where all relevant aspects of the different populations are controlled for. (Section 4-2)

• Completion rates vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction with no clear correlation to per offender spending or the ratio of staff numbers to offender numbers. (Figures 11 and 12)

• Nationally, offenders only served about half the community service hours to which they were sentenced, indicating an under-supply of community service work opportunities. (Table 4)

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