THE COVID-19 pandemic has seen a significant drop in prison populations across NSW according to a recent custody report.
The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research released its quarterly custody update for June this week, revealing a significant decline in the state's total prison population over a two month period.
The drop was similarly reflected by the region's Junee Correctional Centre, showing the number of inmates reduce from 874 on March 15 this year to 800 by May 10.
The roughly 8.4 per cent decline was just shy of the state's total 10.7 per cent drop of 1508 inmates over the same period.
Youth custody saw a similar, yet more significant trend statewide, recording a drop of 27 per cent from February to June, with 268 detainees at the end of February to 195 by the end of June.
Wagga's Juvenile Justice Centre held an average of 22.9 individuals in custody as of June last year, compared with an average of 16.2 in June 2020.
According to NSW BOCSAR, the overarching downward custody trend could be put down to a ramp-up of COVID-19 mitigation strategies in the community and within the justice system.
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The report suggested the "majority of the fall was due to a reduction in the number of people on remand waiting for their court cases".
Remand entries fell and remand exits increased due to:
- A dip in the number of charges laid by police,
- More favourable bail decisions by both police and courts, and
- An increase in people released from remand to wait for their court case in the community.
The sentenced prisoner population also declined after the courts reduced hearings and, accordingly, fewer people were sentenced to prison.
BOCSAR Executive Director Jackie Fitzgerald said the pandemic played a large role in the resulting figures.
"The community lockdown saw falls in many crime categories which led to fewer charges," she said.
"In addition, operational changes within the justice system have had an impact, including the postponement of court cases, changes in bail decisions and the release of people on remand."