Victoria's Prison Population

Since 1871, Victoria’s prison population has shown an overall increasing trend. This trend is characterised by large fluctuations, sometimes influenced by major world events.

The prison population declined from a peak of 1,901 in 1891 to a low of 635 in 1919 following World War I and the influenza pandemic of 1918–19. It then climbed during the next decade, peaking at 1,488 in 1932, before falling again to 912 in 1948, shortly after the end of World War II.

The prison population did not surpass its previous high in 1891 until 1962. From then it continued to climb to a new high of 2,389 in 1971. This was followed by a sharp decline over the next six years. During this time, the prison population dropped by 38% to 1,488 in 1977. Since then, it has continually increased, reaching 6,520 on 30 June 2016.

You can find further information on the prison population in Victoria, including estimates of the 2016 imprisonment rate per 100,000 adults (based on population projections), in our report Victoria’s Prison Population 2005 to 2016.

Graph: the number of people in Victoria’s prisons from 1871 to 2016

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A. Freiberg and S. Ross, Sentencing Reform and Penal Change: The Victorian Experience (The Federation Press, 1999)

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Prisoners in Australia, Cat. No. 4517.0 (2015) (external link opens in a new window)

Corrections Victoria, Monthly Prisoner and Offender Statistics: 2015–16 (2016) Table 1.12 (external link opens in a new window)