Crime costs Australia approximately $36 billion dollars per year. Government spending on the criminal justice system accounts for approximately one quarter of these costs, distributed between the police, the courts, and corrective services. National trends show an increasing expenditure on the criminal justice system and Western Australia reflects this. Over the past five years, the yearly cost of Corrective Services has increased by nearly $200 million (34%), with an additional $655 million used on capital expenditure.
Cost increases in the Western Australian correctives services system coincide with an unprecedented increase in prisoner population. The number of prisoners in adult prisons has increased from approximately 3000 in 2004 to over 5000 in 2014. Not only has the population risen but the cost per prisoner is also rising. In Western Australia, five years ago the cost per prisoner each day was $303.62. Now it is $341.64. For 5000 prisoners that is a rise of over $190,000 per day.
These cost and population pressures underline the importance of an effective corrective services system. In an effective system, imprisonment will positively influence a prisoner’s life by making them less likely to reoffend in the future. Every 10 less prisoners in the system represents an annual saving of one million dollars.
Research has shown that a prison sentence increases the likelihood of reoffending; however, reoffending is less likely if a person undertakes a relevant treatment program (e.g. drug treatment, sexual offender treatment). Other effectively proven rehabilitative measures for reducing reoffending include:
- Prison-based educational and vocational training programs;
- Prison-based employment programs;
- Post-release services that aid community re-integration;
- Drug courts; and
- Mental health diversionary programs.
Recently, the Commissioner for Corrective Services announced an intention to reduce reoffending by five to six per cent per year.