Victoria's Imprisonment Rates

In 2018, Victoria’s imprisonment rate stood at 119 prisoners per 100,000 people.

Victoria’s imprisonment rate has continued to increase since a historic low of 38 prisoners per 100,000 people in 1977. The current rate has not been seen in Victoria since 1895.

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.

Factors such as an increase in the state’s population and the number and length of imprisonment terms imposed by the courts may have substantially contributed to changes in the imprisonment rate.

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 2018

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 of the data. 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, Australian Demographic Statistics, Dec 2018, Cat. No. 3101.0 (2019); Australian Bureau of Statistics, Prisoners in Australia, 2018, Cat. No. 4517.0 (2018).

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).