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Management of Long-Term Prisoners in Australia

NCJ Number
G Wardlaw; D Biles
Date Published
109 pages
This paper examines the long-term prison population in Australia, the classification process in Victorian prisons, staff assessments of long-term inmates, the effects of lengthy imprisonment, and special programs.
It is the product of two separate but related projects. These include a study of the special problems of inmate management, based on surveys of corrections officers and long-term prisoners, and a review of the classification system used in Victorian prisons. The latter project entailed discussions with corrections officers, interviews with prisoners, perusal of all files dealing with classification, and observations of meetings held by classification committees at a number of Victorian prisons. Data show that, of the 10,000 prisoners in Australia, nearly 30 percent are long-timers in that they have been sentenced to 5 years or more or for indefinite terms. The differences in imprisonment rates among Australian jurisdictions are reviewed, and the lack of a relationship between these and crime rates are discussed. Trends in the use of imprisonment and the relative occupancy rates for different prison systems are also examined. An analysis of the available data on long-term prisoners shows that long-termers comprise over 40 percent of prisoners in several jurisdictions. This reflects a significant increase in numbers of such prisoners in Australia in the past decade. A survey of 510 longterm prisoners found that over 50 percent were between 20 and 29 years old and married. Their most common offense was homicide followed by robbery and rape. Significant differences, however, were found among the States. In Western Australia, more long-term prisoners were sentenced for drug offenses than elsewhere, and in New South Wales, more that 20 percent were sentenced for property offenses. Also reviewed in detail are procedures currently followed in each Australian jurisdiction for the classification and placement of long-term prisoners. A number of views of classification from the American literature are summarized. The use of statistical techniques for determining the security rating of prisoners is outlined, and the possible use of computers to aid recordkeeping and the maintenance of protection registers is discussed. Results of the prison staff survey indicate that officers perceived long-term prisoners to work harder and behave better towards staff and other prisoners than the 'average' prisoner. Procedural changes are recommended for classification, work release, institutional employment, and other areas affecting the long-term prisoner. Tabular data, footnotes, and a bibliography are included. Appendixes present a national survey of long-term prisoners and a questionnaire on problems of inmate management.