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Crime down but more in prison

Crime rates in Victoria are down, but prisoner numbers are up, according to two recent reports. Figures released last week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggest that crime rates are down by 3 per cent in Victoria, and 1 per cent across Australia as reported by the Law Institute of Victoria.

The number of youth offenders in Australia has also decreased for the seventh consecutive year, falling by more than 30 per cent to 2330 offenders per 100,000 persons aged 10 to 17 in 2016-17 from 3339 rate in 2009–10.

Despite media reports of a “youth crime wave” in Victoria, the young offender rate in the state was the lowest in the country in 2016-17 apart from the ACT, at less than 1500 per 100,000 persons aged 10 to 17, compared to nearly 2750 for New South Wales.

Even so, prisoner numbers in Victoria swelled in 2016-17 to 6853, up nearly 30 per cent from 4831 in 2011-12, according to the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services.

But Victoria still has among the lowest imprisonment and community corrections rates in the country, the report found, with just 144.6 people imprisoned per 100,000 adults, compared to 213 nationally and 215 in New South Wales.

The costs per day of keeping someone in prison in Victoria was among the highest in the country, at $304 per day (or around $111,000 per year), compared with $215 nationally and $173 in New South Wales.

That has not reduced reoffending rates, which in Victoria has increased to 43.6 per cent in 2016-17, up from 36.8 per cent in 2012-13, on a par with the national rate of 44.8 per cent, but lower than New South Wales at 51.3 per cent.

The cost of administering justice across the country increased from $15.3 billion in 2015-16 to $16.1 billion in 2016-2017, according to the Productivity Commission report. That figure represents 7.2 per cent of total government expenditure of $223.61 billion for the year.

In Victoria $641 per person was spent on justice services for the year, on par with the average of $660 spent on a national basis. Of that, 66.7 per cent was spent on police services, just under 9 per cent was spent on courts, and 24.5 per cent on corrective services.