Australia’s criminal justice costs: an international comparison

Find the report here.

Media release

“Australians are spending more on criminal justice and getting worse results than most comparable countries, underlining the need for criminal justice reform across the country,” said Andrew Bushnell, Research Fellow at the free market think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs.

Today the IPA released a new report Australia’s criminal justice costs: An international comparison. Authored by Research Fellow Andrew Bushnell, the report details the high costs and weak results of Australian criminal justice.

The findings include:

  • Australian prisons are the fourth most expensive in the OECD on a per prisoner basis, with the seventh fastest rate of growth;
  • Australia ranks in the top 10 OECD countries for per capita police spending, with the fifth fastest growth in police numbers; and
  • Australians repeatedly report feeling less safe than people in other countries and may experience more crime than people in comparable countries.

“Despite spending more than most countries, and more and more each year, our results are poor and people don’t feel safe.”

“Australians deserve a criminal justice system that protects our communities and does so efficiently.”

Recent IPA research has found that evidence-based reform consistent with traditional principles like personal responsibility and fair punishment is viable in Australia.

“We know that there are better ways to punish low-risk, nonviolent offenders, like home detention and community service, that have had proven results in reducing reoffending and are more cost effective for taxpayers,” said Mr Bushnell.

“We also know that similar jurisdictions around the world, especially in the United States, have implemented punishment reform and other measures to safely reduce incarceration and crime at the same time. We just need to learn from their example.”

“No-one doubts that prisons and police are vital government expenditures. But we are entitled to value for money, and we are not getting it,” said Mr Bushnell.

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