The Cost Of Australia’s Prisons In 2024

Written by:
14 June 2024
The Cost Of Australia’s Prisons In 2024 - Featured image
  • State and federal governments are now spending $6.4 billion each year on the construction and operation of prisons, with spending having almost doubled in just 10 years.
  • Incarceration costs Australian taxpayers $422 per prisoner per day, or $153,895 per prisoner per year.
  • The adult incarceration rate is now 205.7 per 100,000 of the adult population, an increase of 12 per cent over the last 10 years.
  • Of the 43,305 prisoners in Australia, 62 per cent have been incarcerated for a violent offence,
    23 per cent for a non-violent victimless offence and 15 per cent for a non-violent property offence.
  • In 2023 governments spent $2.4 billion on imprisoning non-violent offenders posing minimal risk to community safety.
  • Sentencing non-violent offenders to alternatives to incarceration would reduce taxpayer expenses and improve community safety by reallocating resources to crime prevention.

The role of prisons

The fundamental aims of the criminal justice system must be ensuring protection of the community and retribution of those who have broken the law. Whilst prisons play an important role in upholding these aims, Australia’s current overreliance on prison as the main form of punishment is expensive and excessive.

It is vital that violent and dangerous criminals are isolated from the community to ensure that citizens feel safe on the streets and in their homes. However, for those who have committed non-violent crimes, there are many alternatives to prison such as offender-employment programs, electronic monitoring, home detention, tax penalties, and restitution orders that would not only save costs for taxpayers by reducing imprisonment rates but would better achieve justice for those who suffer the most from crime: the victims.

By implementing wholesale sentencing reform, the criminal justice system could better serve the needs of the community by reinvesting savings into crime prevention strategies to deter offenders from acting in the first place.

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