A new report says Australia spends more on prisons and police than most other developed countries.

In 2016, Australia’s adult incarceration rate was 208 per 100,000 adults. That figure was up 28 per cent from 2006. Now, there are more than 36,000 prisoners, an increase of 39 per cent from a decade ago.

The new Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) Criminal Justice Project report (available here in PDF form) looks at the causes of this increase.

The international comparison of the costs, scope, and effectiveness of criminal justice in Australia finds that Australia has:

  • the fourth most expensive prisons in the OECD, on a per prisoner basis
  • the seventh fastest prison spending growth rate in the OECD
  • a comparatively large and rapidly growing prison population
  • a higher spend more per capita on police services than all but nine other developed countries
  • more police per capita than all other common law countries except Ireland, with this measure growing at the fifth fastest rate in the OECD
  • a population that feels less safe than the citizens of many comparable countries, and that may experience more crime than other peoples
  • criminal justice systems that seem to be ineffective in correcting criminals’ behaviour (although international comparisons of this effectiveness are almost impossible)

The report calls for evidence-based reforms like locking up only the most dangerous criminals and using home detention, community service, fines, and restitution orders for non-violent, low-risk offenders.

Lead researcher Andrew Bushnell has reflected on the state of Australian incarceration in an opinion piece for the ABC.