A new research paper released by the Productivity Commission has found that the imprisonment rate in Australia is at an all time high, despite the the falling crime rate.
According to the report, the imprisonment rate has more than doubled since the 1980’s with over 40,000 people in prison in June 2020, a third of which were on remand at the time.
It found that in the decade leading to the 2019/20 financial year, the overall offender rate had fallen by 18 per cent, however the rate of imprisonment has risen by 25 per cent.
It is understood that around 30 per cent were serving terms of under six months and around 70 per cent of those serving short sentences are for non-violent offences.
Former director of the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Don Weatherburn says sending people to prison for minor offences is counter-productive.
The report also says changes to bail laws in different jurisdictions has contributed to the rise in the imprisonment rate, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria.
While, once upon a time, bail laws served to ensure court attendance, the report cites recent changes to laws that now place emphasis on mitigating the potential risks of offending while on bail.
Therefore the onus is on the defendant to show cause why they should be granted bail.
Dr Stephen King from the Productivity Commission says the justice system should be using alternatives for minor offences.
A statement Attorney-General Michaelia Cash’s department says the Morrison Government wont weaken it’s stance on crime and they will always have a zero tolerance policy.
The full report can be accessed here.