The prison population in the Australian state of New South Wales has surged to record highs, according to a report released Monday by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOSCAR).

There are currently 12,729 adult inmates as of December, which represents a 16 percent surge in the past two years.

However, the number of juveniles in custody has fallen, down 38 percent from 2011 to 2016.

Don Weatherburn, director of BOSCAR said the slowing growth in prisoner numbers was encouraging, yet still has concerns over the worrying levels of inmates which are “of obvious concern to both inmates and staff.”

“The continued fall in the number of juveniles in detention is also encouraging because it reflects a decline in juvenile crime.”
According to an New South Wales Auditor General’s report in November, the overcrowded prison system is costing the state 200 thousand Australian dollars per day or 60 million Australian dollars per year, due to exceeding full capacity.

Auditor General Margaret Crawford was concerned with the figures, and stressed that there was no buffer in place to allow for effective management of the prisons.

“Increases in the operational capacity of the prison system are not keeping pace with increases in inmate numbers,” Crawford said.

“The Department of Justice should determine if the planned capital investment is sufficient to efficiently and effectively manage inmates over the next two to three years.”

A Corrective Services NSW spokesperson said on Monday, the safety of the staff remains the number one priority for the organisation.

“Corrective Services staff work among some of the state’s most volatile and unpredictable people, but they must still have a safe workplace, which is why the department is continuously monitoring and improving its practices,” the spokesperson for Corrective Services NSW said.

“To deal with the increase in inmate population, the NSW 2016-17 Budget provided $3.8 billion over four years to fund a long-term infrastructure plan of about 7,000 beds.”

The government also has plans to roll out the largest ever rehabilitation program in the state’s history, at a cost of 237 million Australian dollars, in an attempt to quell the current overcrowding plaguing the prison system.

“The plan will provide more rehabilitation programs and enhanced supervision to priority offenders and will have an emphasis on the critical period before and after prisoners are released from custody.” the spokesperson for Corrective Services NSW said.

– Will Koulouris