Research report

Indigenous imprisonment in NSW: a closer look at the trend

19 Jul 2017

Aim: To explain the upward trend in Indigenous imprisonment in NSW between January 2012 and September 2016.

Method: Separate analyses were conducted of trends in the factors influencing the number of remand and sentenced prisoners received into custody and the length of time spent in custody by remandees and sentenced prisoners. Trends were tested for significance using Kendall’s rank order correlation test.

Results: The growth in Indigenous imprisonment in NSW since 2012 is a result of three main factors: (1) an increase in the number of Indigenous defendants charged with criminal offences, especially those in the categories of Stalking/Intimidation, Breaching a s.9 Bond and Breaching a s.12 Bond; (2) an increase in the proportion of convicted Indigenous offenders receiving a prison sentence for the offence of Stalking/Intimidation; and (3) an increase in the length of time being spent on remand by Indigenous defendants refused bail, in large part because of a growth in court delay in the NSW District Criminal Court. The growth in imprisonment for Stalking/Intimidation offences has been particularly noteworthy. The number of Indigenous Australians imprisoned for Stalking/Intimidation offences was more than eight times higher in 2016 than it was in 2012.

Conclusion: The number of Indigenous offenders receiving a prison sentence could be reduced by more than 500 a year if half of those currently given a short prison sentence for Assault Actual Bodily Harm, Common Assault, Stalking/Intimidation, Breaching an Apprehended Violence Order, Breaching a s.9 Bond or Breaching a s.12 Bond were instead placed on an Intensive Correction Order or Home Detention.

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