The profile of women in prison
The rate at which women are being incarcerated in Australia has increased dramatically in the last 20 years (Baldry, 2008; Mitchell, 2005). Reviewing data collected between 1995 and 2002, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) calculated that the female imprisonment rate had more than doubled (58%) over those seven years. One quarter of those women were on remand.1 In 2010, the ABS reported that the last 10 years (1999-2009) had seen an increase of 60% in the female prison population. Between the 2009 and 2010 Prisoner Censuses, the number of female prisoners increased by 5% (ABS, 2010). In short, there has been a significant increase in the number of women in Australian prisons since 1995, a situation that is not unique to Australia. Internationally, the rate of female imprisonment is also increasing (Corston, 2007; Gelsthorpe, 2010; Martin, Kautt, & Gelsthorpe, 2009).
A report on the gender differences in sentencing outcomes by the Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council (2010) indicates that “data from higher courts show both an increase in the proportion of women being sentenced to imprisonment and an increase in the average length of imprisonment terms” for women (Sentencing Advisory Council, 2010).