This publication surveys the use of sentences of imprisonment equal to the time that an offender has spent in custody on remand. It explores how Victoria’s growing remand population has caused a significant increase in the number of time served prison sentences, how many of those sentences were combined with a community correction order (CCO), and the policy implications of those types of sentences.
The Council has also prepared a two-page factsheet outlining the key findings of the report.
- Between 2011–12 and 2017–18, the number of time served prison sentences imposed by Victorian courts each year rose 643%, from 246 to 1,828. They now account for 20% of all prison sentences imposed, whereas previously it was 5%.
- Just over half of all time served prison sentences were combined with a CCO, with the CCO taking effect upon the person’s release.
- 96% of time served prison sentences were less than six months in length.
- Almost all time served prison sentences (95%) were imposed in the Magistrates’ Court, while 5% were imposed in the County and Supreme Courts.
- Time served prison sentences accounted for 39% of the increase in prison sentences imposed in Victoria in the five financial years to 30 June 2018. There were 3,500 additional prison sentences imposed in 2017–18 than in 2013–14. Nearly 1,400 of those were time served prison sentences. This strongly suggests that Victoria’s increasing remand population is causing courts to impose prison sentences more often, without actually requiring people to spend more time in prison.
The report also flags important criminal justice policy implications arising from this increase in time served prison sentences, including:
- the limited opportunities for someone sentenced to a time served prison sentence to make transitional arrangements for their release (e.g. housing, employment, transport);
- the limited opportunities for the criminal justice system to provide targeted programs addressing offending behaviour to someone held on remand, given that they are presumed innocent until proven guilty;
- the extent to which a time served prison sentence is capable of achieving key sentencing purposes such as rehabilitation or community protection; and
- whether the increasing likelihood of receiving a time served prison sentence might inappropriately encourage some people on remand to plead guilty in the hope of being released earlier than if they proceeded to trial.