Prison’s shadow: Trajectories of imprisonment concentration in Australian communities

Dr Kirsten Besemer1, Professor Susanne  Karstedt1

1Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia

Australia imprisons twice as many people as it did 30 years ago, placing it well above average imprisonment rates in comparable OECD countries. This coincides with high concentrations of imprisonment in a small number of disadvantaged communities. Researchers have made compelling theoretical arguments about the disruptive effects of such concentrated imprisonment on community life, including safety and wellbeing.  However, we do not know how these dynamics have developed in Australia over time, or how they feed back into each other. We also do not know what communities are experiencing faster changes in imprisonment. In this study, we track where, when, and how concentrations of imprisonment have changed in Australian communities between 2010 and 2018. The study is based on a unique dataset comprising imprisonment and crime data from all postcodes in six States and Territories from 2010 to 2018. We will use spatial and multi-level modelling techniques to identify trajectories and concentrations of imprisonment. This study lays the groundwork for a new, policy-relevant evidence base that links data on imprisonment to data on the safety and strength of communities.


Dr Kirsten Besemer is a Senior Lecturer at the Griffith Criminology Institute. Her recent research has been primarily focused on the consequences of imprisonment for prisoners’ families and their local communities. From 2015-2018, she worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Vulnerable Families Project, a study of children with fathers in prison and their caregivers under the leadership of Professor Susan Dennison. From 2010-2015, Kirsten worked as a Research Fellow for the Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Equality & Real Estate Research at Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh, where she worked on research projects relating to poverty, public services and housing.


Dec 09 2021