Revolving door: Three-quarters of ACT’s prisoners are repeat offenders

Glynis Quinlan 11 April 2018 9
Steel bars

Seventy-five per cent of the ACT’s prisoners are repeat offenders.

Three-quarters of the ACT’s prisoners are repeat offenders, with the Territory having the largest proportion of prisoners who have previously been imprisoned of any state or territory according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The statistics for June 30, 2017, also reveal that the ACT has the highest proportion of unsentenced prisoners of all states and territories, at 39 per cent.

There were 449 adult prisoners in the ACT in June 2017, an increase of two per cent from the previous year.

The median prisoner age was 39 and most prisoners (91 per cent) were men, although the percentage of women had increased.

The most common offence was ‘acts intended to cause injury’ at 27 per cent (120 prisoners) followed by sexual assault at 12 per cent (55 prisoners).

A total of 337 prisoners – or 75 per cent of the ACT’s adult prison population – had previously been imprisoned under sentence. This compares to the national average of 57 per cent.

The ACT’s high rate of re-offenders contrasts with the NSW rate of 52 per cent and is out of step with the stated aims of the Alexander Maconochie Centre to be a place which “emphasises rehabilitation”.

Alexander Maconochie Centre

The Alexander Maconochie Centre. File photo.

The Northern Territory had the second highest rate after the ACT, with 72 per cent of prisoners having previously been imprisoned under sentence.

An ACT Government spokesperson told The RiotACT that standard recidivism measures provide a basic tool for measuring what is typically a complex issue.

“The ACT’s low rates of imprisonment (the lowest after Tasmania) means that offenders who receive custodial sentences typically have more endemic offending behaviours,” the spokesperson said.

“Understanding the drivers behind offending and reoffending behaviours is important. Factors including changes to sentencing legislation, police operations, and court sentencing practices can impact on recidivism reporting.”

Commitment to reduce recidivism by 25 per cent by 2025

The spokesperson said that the Government is committed to reducing recidivism by 25 per cent by 2025 and to supporting detainees to successfully re-integrate into the community.

“ACT Corrective Services is developing a Rehabilitation Framework to address offending behaviour and work with detainees to better reintegrate into the community following their imprisonment,” the Government spokesperson said.

“The Extended ThroughCare program also provides assistance for eligible detainees exiting custody to help them reintegrate into the community.”

According to the spokesperson, the definition of ‘prior imprisonment’ for the purposes of the ABS publication is anyone under sentence as at 30 June that is known to have been previously imprisoned in an adult prison.

“Periodic detention is included as prior imprisonment. Prisoners who have had previous adult imprisonment in another state or territory may not be counted as having prior imprisonment as they would need to self-identify.

“This definition differs from the recidivism counting rule applied in the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services, which indicates whether detainees released in a particular year have returned to custody under sentence within a two year period.

“Imprisonment rates or the number of detainees entering the custodial environment are caused by many factors – unfortunately, there is no one simple solution.”

Median time of 2.7 months on remand

There were 174 unsentenced prisoners (39 per cent) in the ACT on June 2017, with the median time spent on remand by unsentenced prisoners being 2.7 months.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders comprised 21 per cent (95 prisoners) of the ACT’s adult prisoner population.

“According to the ABS data, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment rates have increased in every jurisdiction except the ACT and the Northern Territory,” the Government spokesperson said.

Australia’s prison numbers increase six years in a row

The ABS reports that the total number of people in prisons throughout Australia has increased for the sixth consecutive year, with 41,202 prisoners on the night of June 30, 2017.

This represents a six per cent increase from June 30, 2016 and a 51 per cent increase from June 30, 2007.

ABS Director of the National Centre of Crime and Justice Statistics, William Milne said that the increase in the Australian prisoner population over the year was due to the rise in prisoners with offences of acts intended to cause injury and illicit drug offences.

NSW continued to have the largest number of prisoners of all states and territories, accounting for 32 per cent of the national prisoner population. Queensland has the second largest (21 per cent), while the ACT and Tasmania have the lowest proportions, each with one per cent of total prisoners.

Are you concerned about the number of repeat offenders in the ACT? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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9 Responses to Revolving door: Three-quarters of ACT’s prisoners are repeat offenders
justin heywood justin heywood 10:22 pm 11 Apr 18

Ironic, given that the high rate of recidivism in the ‘inhumane’ NSW prison system was frequently trotted out as a key reason for the establishment of the AMC in the first place.

    Spiral Spiral 11:08 am 12 Apr 18

    That link has some rather ironic statements by Mr Hargreaves considering the death of Steven Freeman.

Jackson Bond Jackson Bond 2:17 pm 11 Apr 18

Maybe we should take a lesson from Alexander Maconochie himself.

He believed that prisoners sentences should be indefinite – the criminals would have to earn a certain number of ‘marks’, or credits for good behaviour and hard work, before they were released. To earn enough marks to be released they must work and behave. Dont work or behave? Fine, but you will never get enough ‘marks’ to buy your release.

‘Marks’ could also be exchanged for luxuries if the prisoner was so inclined (although this would mean it took longer to save the required marks for release. Under Maconochie, the criminals would pay for everything with ‘marks’ they earned. The only free items were a subsistence diet of bread and water.

The centre is named after him, how about we start adhering to the principles he believed in.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:57 pm 11 Apr 18

    A sort of “social credit” scheme but on the inside. Sounds good to me.

James_Ryan James_Ryan 11:22 am 11 Apr 18

“Trends identified in the directorate’s survey included staff concerns about workplace bias, preparedness to speak-up against misconduct and confusion around areas of accountability.”

“JACS is committed to improving its workplace culture, the results are reflective of the differences in culture reflected in the diverse nature of JACS function,” a directorate spokesman said.”

Nothing to see here. Nothing the public need concern itself with. Trust us, we got this.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:25 am 11 Apr 18

We used to have “crime and punishment” Now it is “crime and nourishment”.

How about expunging all this touchy-feely rehabilitation nonsense and issue heavy duty blockbusters with a rock pile and daily quota?
The convicts that were transported to Australia got the idea very quickly and were rewarded with emancipation. Most went on to build Australia into the great nation it once was. The supervisors even had a pick twice as heavy as the normal issue which was called “the punishment pick”. This was given to repeat offenders.

They will need a lot of punishment picks at AMC.

James_Ryan James_Ryan 9:02 am 11 Apr 18

The community should be concerned. Not by the number of repeat offenders in the ACT, per se, but by the AMC’s failure to rehabilitate offenders. When compared against the aspirations for and claims about the AMC (i.e. education not industry; human rights compliant; focus on rehabilitation – where NONE of those things have been achieved), the AMC has been an utter failure.

Successive senior executives, prison managers and deputies have delivered these outcomes on behalf of our community. Whilst the prison portfolio is somewhat of a poisoned chalice, and the relevant minister has undoubtedly been poorly advised, the buck stops with the minister.

The minister should therefore be more proactive: more direct involvement in and oversight of Corrections ACT management and governance; closer investigation of complaints and concerns; more thorough backgrounding of key appointees BEFORE they get hired; and the re-creation of an advisory group including community sector appointees to review health/AOD-related performance data and provide external oversight. Importantly, the Minister needs to turn an ear to people who are saying what is wrong rather than deferring to executives and managers saying “nothing to see here”.

Scott Welsh Scott Welsh 8:51 am 11 Apr 18

Not much in our prison system has changed since Europeans settled here, yet we persist with this archaic stupidity. There are plenty of models in Europe that have worked far better at prevent reoffending.

BethandTrevor Reid BethandTrevor Reid 8:22 am 11 Apr 18

Easier to get into prison with three meals a day than public housing maybe?

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