When you think of prison inmates, you might conjure up images of ‘hardened criminals’ locked away for violent and abhorrent crimes, like murder and paedophilia; but the fact is that many are in prison for non-violent offences.
Rising Prison Population
The NSW prison population hit an historic high this year of 11,100 inmates – which is about 30% of the entire Australian prison population (33, 791 as of 2014).
This is in the context of crime rates for just about every serious offence category decreasing or stabilising. A report by the Bureau of Crimes Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) found that increased arrest rates and tougher penalties are behind the increasing prison population. In other words, more people are being arrested, and those who are convicted are being sent to prison more often, and for longer.
Most Common Offences that Lead to Prison
Across Australia, for both male and female inmates, the most common category of offence leading to imprisonment is ‘acts intended to cause injury’ – which includes all forms of assaults and other acts that injured a person, including those that were done recklessly. 21% of all male inmates and 20% of females were imprisoned for such acts.
The next most common offence categories for males are drug offences, unlawful entries and sexual assault– each of which makes up 12% of the male prison population.
17% of female offenders were serving time for drug offences, and ‘offences against justice procedures’ was the third most common category for women.
Offences against justice procedures includes a wide range of offences such as breaching good behaviour bonds or bail, resisting or hindering arrest, phone tapping, possessing or supplying contraband to prison, perjury, and escaping lawful custody.
Top 10 offences represented in NSW prisons:
So here it is: according to the BOCSAR (2015) custody report of 2014, the top ten offences for which people are doing time in NSW are:
- Acts intended to cause injury (17.6%)
- Justice procedure offences (13.7%)
- Drug offences (13.5%)
- Sexual assault (11.3%)
- Robbery/extortion (8.9%)
- Unlawful entry/burglary/break and enter (8.4%)
- Homicide (8.4%)
- Traffic offences (4.0%)
- Theft (3%)
- Fraud/deception (2.8%)
Traffic law is something that many people see as a different category separate from real criminal law; but the fact is that hundreds of Australians are doing time behind bars for traffic and vehicle regulatory offences.
As of last year, 800 inmates across Australia were in prison for traffic offences; including 318 in NSW. The most common traffic offences that led to imprisonment were drink driving, driving whilst suspended or disqualified, reckless driving and dangerous driving.
Traffic offenders account for 2.4% of prison inmates across Australia, which an even higher percentage than those doing time for fraud (766).