Prisoner numbers hit record highs across Australia

AUSTRALIA'S jails housed a record 35,467 prisoners in the March quarter - and last financial year the jail system cost taxpayers $2.6 billion.

Australian Bureau of Statistics researchers have also revealed indigenous people are far more likely to be locked up than members of any other cultural group.

"The overall number of prisoners in Australia has increased annually by 2221 persons (7%) between the March quarter 2014 and the March quarter 2015," ABS spokesman William Milne said.

The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners increased annually by 618 inmates to 9838 persons, almost 12 times higher than the overall imprisonment rate.

The national average daily Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment rate was 2241 prisoners per 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 194 inmates per 100,000 population.

While prisoner numbers surged, the number of people serving community corrections orders remained steady at 55,995.

Men are far more likely to be in jail with 32,686 behind bars compared to 2780 women.

The Northern Territory recorded the biggest increase to its daily average imprisonment rate over the year, up from 864 prisoners per 100,000 adult population to 904.

Tasmania was the only state to record a decrease, dropping from 119 to 118 prisoners per 100,000 adults.

New South Wales had the most people behind bars with its 11,244 prisoners making up 31% of the national prisoner population.

A Productivity Commission report found the nation's prison system cost $2.6 billion to run in 2013/14, with each prisoner costing taxpayers an average of $292 a day, almost double the average daily wage of $160.

Meanwhile, NSW shadow minister for Corrections Guy Zangari is demanding Minister David Elliott urgently stop cost cutting in NSW prisons, following a coroner's report blaming budget cuts in the South Australian prison system for a prisoner's suicide.

"The South Australian Coroner has essentially said a prisoner's suicide could have been avoided if cuts to the prison budget had not been so steep," Mr Zangari said.

"NSW is on exactly the same path as South Australia, with budget cuts standard under this Liberal Government, and it is highly disturbing."

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