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Data from Recorded Crime – Offenders, found that 14% of offenders had a principal offence that was illicit drug related in 2021-22. Illicit drug offences (50,920 offenders) were the third most common principal offence nationally in 2021-22 (acts intended to cause injury,83,926 offenders, were the most common principal offence). The number of illicit drug offences decreased by 19% (down 11,778 offenders) between 2020–21 and 2021-22, the sixth consecutive year of decreases.
In 2021-22, the principal youth offender rate of illicit drug offences (3,503) decreased by 14% from 2020-21. This is the lowest recorded rate since 2008-09 and the seventh consecutive decrease (ABS 2023c).
Data from Criminal Courts, Australia for 2021-2022 showed that, excluding organisations and transfers to other court levels, most defendants had their offences finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts (92%, or 463,527).
- Illicit drug offences were the 4th most common principal offence, accounting for almost 1 in 10 (9%, or 38,959) defendants finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts. Of these:
- over 3 in 5 (68%, or 26,358 defendants) were possession or use offences.
- almost three-quarters (74%, or 28,945) of defendants were male.
- Excluding transfers, illicit drug offences remained steady from 2010–11 to 2018–19. The number of illicit drug offences has been variable between 2018–19 and 2021–22 (38,959 in 2021-22, a decrease from 50,958 in 2020–21) (ABS 2023a, Table 1).
- Of defendants proven guilty in the Magistrates’ Courts for a principal offence of illicit drug offences (35,877 defendants), over 3 in 5 (62%, or 22,209) were sentenced to fines. A further 7.5% were given a custodial sentence (ABS 2023a, Table 10).
The introduction of COVID-19 restrictions in March 2020 led to the deferral of some cases and temporary court closures nationwide, which affected the number of defendants finalised in Criminal Courts. This should be taken into account when comparing the 2021–22 reference period with earlier years.
A snapshot of the adult (aged 18 and over) prison population at 30 June 2022 showed there were 40,591 prisoners in Australia. This represents 201 prisoners per 100,000 adult population and is a 6% increase from 2021 (ABS 2023b).
On an average day in 2021-22, 4,536 young people aged 10 and over were under youth justice supervision. A total of 8,982 young people were supervised at some time during the year, down from 9,352 in 2020-21 (AIHW 2022b). On an average day in 2021-22, more than 4 in 5 (82%) of young people under supervision were supervised in the community. However, around 1 in 5 (18%) were in detention and some were supervised in both the community and detention on the same day.
In 2021-22, the youth justice supervision data from this period coincides with the presence of COVID-19 in Australia and related social restrictions. Further research is required to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on youth justice supervision (AIHW 2023).
The National Tobacco Strategy 2012–2018 recognises that prisoners have some of the highest levels of smoking and that smoking is common among groups that are often over-represented in the prison population (IGCD 2012). Recently, there have been a range of smoking bans introduced in Australian prisons and most correctional facilities are now smoke-free (DoH 2016).
Data from the National Prisoner Health Data Collection (NPHDC) showed that rates of smoking among prisoners is substantially higher than in the general community. In 2018:
- Three-quarters (75%) of prison entrants currently smoked tobacco.
- Tasmania had the highest proportion of current smokers (90%), followed by South Australia (83%). Queensland (68%) had the lowest proportion.
- More than two-thirds (67%) of prison entrants smoked tobacco daily (Figure CRIM1).
- The average age a prisoner smoked their first full cigarette was 14.1 years (AIHW 2019).
In the general population, findings from the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) showed that of people aged 14 and over:
- 11.0% smoked on a daily basis.
- 14.0% were current smokers.
- The average age of their first full cigarette was 16.6 years (AIHW 2020).
Figure CRIM1: Smoking status for prison entrants and the general population, 2018 and 2019 (percent)