In Australia, the number of unconvicted prisoners is exploding due to the housing crisis

In NSW, the number of Indigenous adults in pre-trial detention increased by 21.7 per cent from December 2020 to December 2022, while the number of Indigenous women in detention has increased by 12.4 per cent since 2021.

Luke Murphy, President of the Law Council of Australia, said the housing crisis was exacerbating bail refusals across the country and courts were unlikely to grant bail to homeless people accused of a crime without an address.

“The lack of safe and stable housing contributes to and exacerbates poor justice outcomes,” Murphy said.

“It may increase the likelihood that a person will be denied bail and instead be remanded in custody, it may prevent a person from escaping domestic or family violence, and it may increase the risk of recidivism in recently released prisoners.”

Research from La Trobe University showed that homelessness was also the top barrier for women seeking bail.

The number of Australians who have been denied bail or are in prison awaiting sentencing has reached record levels.

The number of Australians who have been denied bail or are in prison awaiting sentencing has reached record levels. Credit: file image

A spokesman for NSW Attorney General Michael Daley said bail decisions were made independently of the government, but added that the laws were “among the strictest in Australia and put community safety at its core”.

Addie Kirst’s partner spent five months in custody after being refused bail while awaiting a hearing in Sydney.

She asked that her partner’s name remain secret.


Kirst said he should have been on drug and rehabilitation treatment during that time. He has a long history of substance abuse and was accused of stalking, intimidating and threatening a stranger while he was suffering from a substance-use psychosis in June last year.

“It was so important for him that he was treated [to] Fix the underlying cause of the behavior,” she said. “You can lock him up as many times as you want, but when he gets out he starts drinking again. It will just keep happening.”

During his previous detention, he lost his housing and job.

Kirst eventually found private counsel and received a new hearing. In November he was released on bail for a nine-month rehabilitation program.

Kirst said his recovery was “successful,” but it should have happened sooner.

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Justin Scaccy

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