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Jailing is failing Australian taxpayers. In addition to being harmful and ineffective, imprisonment is also extremely expensive. The cost of adult incarceration in Australia is more than $6.3 billion per annum. The cost of keeping someone in prison each year is approximately $147,890. These costs just refer to the annual operating costs (and some of the capital costs). They do not take into account the additional cost of increased crime, as a consequence of incarceration, or other costs such as loss of housing and employment. Nor does it consider the economic cost of lost productivity of those people who are incarcerated.

In Australia, the cost of incarcerating one child in custody for one day is $2,827. The cost of incarcerating one child in custody for a year is $1,032,027. Across Australia $855,257 million is spent each year on locking up children. This does not take into account the cost of new capital works. It also does not account for the cost of crime, disconnection from family and community, the absence of education, disability and mental health, and the life-long costs in terms of risks of entrenched justice system involvement.