Majority of Vic women prisoners on remand

Ulises Izquierdo

Nine out of 10 women sitting in Victorian prisons in 2018 were on remand waiting to go to trial or be sentenced, with half of them on drug-related charges.

The Crime Statistics Agency study highlights the increasing complexity and numbers of female prisoners across the state, jumping to 825 inmates in 2018, compared to about 300 inmates in 2012.

One out of four women were charged with drug use or possession involving methamphetamine, and almost half of them experienced family violence.

Up to 42 per cent of female prisoners surveyed revealed they were under the influence of drugs at the time of offending.

Half of property offenders attributed their crimes to the need for money to buy drugs.

Previous Australian research has highlighted links between drug use and offending for female prisoners.

Although 91 per cent of these women on remand had at least one of their reception charges proven against them in court, less than two-thirds were eventually sentenced to prison.

"Our research found that half the women who entered prison on remand during 2018 were charged with one of two new breach of bail offences first introduced during December 2013," Crime Statistics Agency Chief Statistician Fiona Dowsley said on Thursday.

There was also a downward spiral for some inmates after committing their first offence, as 45 per cent of them were imprisoned on at least one other occasion.

Being remanded in prison can increase the likelihood of reoffending, drug use and the development of mental health issues, the report says.

Half of the women were the victim of at least one crime in the two years prior to their entry into prison, with assault the most common type of offence recorded.

The report found 66 per cent of women were charged with breaching bail, compared with 21 per cent in 2012.

Considering the economic cost of imprisonment to government, which is estimated at $417 per day, the study suggests further research is needed to understand the effect of recent bail reforms on these statistics.