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Aboriginals are 3.2% of the New South Wales population but 31% of the adult prisoners and two-thirds of those in youth detention

Aboriginals overrepresented in NSW jails

Aboriginals in New South Wales are being jailed for more crimes than ever before and now make up 30.8% of the adults in prison – despite being just 3.2% of the population – and 66.4% of the juvenile inmates.

According to the latest data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), one in 29 Aboriginal men in Australia’s most populous state are incarcerated, and the overall number behind bars is the highest on record.

The statistics also showed that the number of adults on remand on NSW was also the highest ever recorded, up 14.1% from March 2019, largely due to a rise in recorded incidents and legal actions for domestic violence, sexual assault, and intimidation/stalking offences.

BOSCAR Executive Director Jackie Fitzgerald said that 33.9% more adults were in custody for domestic violence than the same month four years ago, and that 52.5% of those were on remand.

“The Aboriginal prison population is also at a record high, with Aboriginal adults making up 31% of the prison population,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“To put that in perspective, in NSW, 3.2% of adults are Aboriginal, and 1 in 29 Aboriginal men in NSW are currently incarcerated.”

“This increase also isn’t isolated to just adults. In March 2024, there were 148 Aboriginal young people in detention, 27 more than in March 2019. Two-thirds (66.4%) of the youth detention population is now made up of Aboriginal young people, which is a new record in NSW.

“The overwhelming majority of Aboriginal young people in detention are on remand (78.4%), primarily for break and enter (29.3%) and car theft (22.4%).”

The statistics showed that there are 50% more young Aboriginal females detainees now than in March 2023, and 19.8% more male detainees, pushing the Indigenous over-representation in NSW juvenile detention centres from 57.1% to 66.4%.

For adults the female custody population increased 5.8% in the past year, and the male population by 1.7%. The proportion of adult Aboriginals increased 0.8% since March 2023.

Similar data released for Canberra in February showed that 27% of the city’s prisoners are Indigenous, while Aboriginals make up only 2% of the Australian Capital Territory’ population.

According to a Productivity Commission report, Aboriginals are 24.6 times more likely to be in jail than non-Indigenous Canberra residents.

Aboriginals overrepresented in NSW jails
William Bugmy is an Aboriginal criminal who attacked a prison guard but appealed his sentence saying Indigenous offenders should have “systemic disadvantages” taken into account by the courts

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