Victoria’s imprisonment rate decreased by 13.0% from 122.8 prisoners per 100,000 in 2019 to 106.8 prisoners per 100,000 people in 2020.
This is the most substantial decrease in Victoria’s imprisonment rate since the historic low of 38 prisoners per 100,000 people in 1977.
Victoria’s imprisonment rate in the early 1800s was estimated to have reached over 400 prisoners per 100,000 people. When more reliable figures first became available in 1871, the imprisonment rate was close to half that estimate (210 prisoners per 100,000 people). By the mid-1970s, the imprisonment rate had declined substantially to below 50 prisoners per 100,000 people.
Between 1909 and 1974, the imprisonment rate stabilised at approximately 50 to 70 prisoners per 100,000 people, with three notable exceptions:
- following the end of World War I (1918) and during the influenza pandemic of 1918 and 1919, the imprisonment rate dropped below 50 prisoners per 100,000 people
- during the 1920s and 1930s, the imprisonment rate increased rapidly, reaching a high of 82 prisoners per 100,000 people in 1932 before decreasing in subsequent years
- in the years directly following World War II (1945 to 1950), the imprisonment rate again fell below 50 prisoners per 100,000 people.
Certain factors may have substantially contributed to changes in the imprisonment rate. These include an increase in the state’s population and the number and length of imprisonment terms imposed by the courts.
Note: The data in the graph measures the rate of prisoners per 100,000 people of all ages.
Imprisonment rate per 100,000 people for Victoria, 1871 to 2020
Hover over the line in the graph to display the year, imprisonment rate and number of people imprisoned. Use the range slider below the graph to zoom in on specific years. Double-click on the graph to reset.
Sources: A. Freiberg and S. Ross, Sentencing Reform and Penal Change: The Victorian Experience (The Federation Press, 1999); Australian Bureau of Statistics, National, State and Territory Population, June 2020; Australian Bureau of Statistics, Prisoners in Australia, 2020, cat. no. 4517.0 (2020).
Note: Prison population data for 1872, 1899 and 1900 is missing in the original source. The values given are estimates. These estimates were divided by the Victorian population in the corresponding years, taken from Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Historical Population Statistics, 2016, cat. no. 3105.0.65.001 (2016).