Before prison: The criminal court process


Why am I in prison?

If you’re in prison, this will be because either:

  • you’re there “on remand”, which means a judge has decided you have to stay in prison while you’re waiting for the next step in your court case, or
  • you’re serving a prison sentence after you’ve been convicted and sentenced.

When will I be released from prison?

If you’re in prison on remand, you have the right to apply to be released on bail. It will then be up to a judge to decide whether you can be released on bail (usually with special conditions, like an address where you have to stay and a curfew), or whether you’ll have to stay in prison on remand.

If you’re a sentenced prisoner, you’ll have to stay in prison until your scheduled release date, or until you’re released on parole or until you get a temporary release.

For more information about temporary release, see the chapter “Release from prison”

If you’ve been sentenced to prison for more than two years, you can apply to be released on parole after you’ve served one third of your total sentence (unless the judge gave you a minimum no-parole period of longer than one third of your full sentence).

For example, if you’re sentenced to three years’ prison, you can apply for parole after serving one year. However, if you’re sentenced to a prison term of two years or less, you’ll simply serve half of that prison term and then be released – you don’t apply for parole if you have a short prison term like this.

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Before prison: The criminal court process

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide initial free legal advice and information.

Also available as a book

Lag Law: Prisoner's Rights

Lag Law answers heaps of common questions you might have if you’re going to prison, you’re in prison, or you’re getting out of prison. It talks about your rights in prison, and sets out the laws and rules that affect you when you’re put in prison . 1 free copy for people in prison and the whānau of someone in prison. If that’s you, email for your free copy

Buy Lag Law: Prisoner's Rights

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