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Prisoner's rights

Starting your sentence

Arriving at prison

What can I take with me to prison?

Any of your things that you brought with you to the court will be taken with you to the prison. These items will be sorted when you arrive at the prison, and you’ll be told what you’ll be allowed to keep with you in your cell and what will have to go into storage.

Here’s some information about specific things that you can or can’t take with you:

  • TVs – You can’t take a TV with you, but you’ll be issued with one when you get to prison if you want one. This will cost you $2 a week to rent.
  • Radios/clocks – You can take a radio and an alarm clock with you. If these are new items still in their sealed packaging they’ll be processed faster through the prison’s receiving office than if they’re not new.
  • Underwear etc. – You can take five sets of underwear, socks and thermals with you.
  • Your own clothes – You can take one full set of clothes for when you need to go to court or for when you’re released.
  • Shoes – You can take two pairs of shoes with you.
  • Toiletries – Different prisons seem to have slightly different rules about toiletries, such as deodorants, but usually you won’t be allowed to bring in any spray bottles. You can buy roll-on deodorant, toothbrushes and shampoo through the prison canteen.

See “Your property: What you’re allowed to have in prison” in this chapter

Being “processed” when you first arrive at prison

Corrections Act 2004, ss 41, 42; Corrections Regulations 2005, reg 32; Prison Operations Manual, I.02

When you arrive at the prison the following things will happen (this is called being “processed”):

  • You will be able to make a phone call to let someone know where you are.
  • You’ll be strip-searched and all items will be taken off you.
  • The prison staff will make and keep a list of your property. Your things will then either be given back to you for you to use in your cell, or be stored for safekeeping.
  • Any cash you have on you will be taken off you and put into your prisoner trust account (called a “P119 account”).
  • If you’ve been sentenced (as opposed to being on remand), you’ll usually be issued with prison clothing (although some prisons allow you to wear your own clothes). If you’re on remand you’ll usually be able to wear your own clothes (but not jeans).
  • You’ll be photographed. Each time you go to prison they’ll take a new photo of you, and this will be placed on the “muster board” for your unit. They may also take your measurements, your fingerprints and a digital eye scan.
  • A prison officer will ask you if you understand what type of sentence you have received.
  • If you’re being held in prison while your court case is going on or while you’re waiting to be sentenced (called being “on remand”), the prison officer will tell you when your next court date is.

Being placed in a holding cell

While you’re waiting to be processed you’ll usually be placed in a temporary cell (a “holding cell”).

There will be other prisoners in the cell. Usually the holding cell will be for all the prisoners who have arrived from the court.

Can I talk with the other prisoners?

Yes, you can talk to the other prisoners. If you’re threatened by any other prisoners, you can report this to a prison officer.

Can I be put in a holding cell by myself?

Prison Operations Manual, I.04

Yes, if this is necessary. If you’re concerned for your safety because of your age, any mental-health issues you may have, or any other reason, make this clear to your lawyer when you’re at the courts. Your lawyer can then tell the transporting police or prison officers about this, and if appropriate can even email the prison’s receiving office about your concerns.

If you haven’t spoken to your lawyer about this you can talk to the transporting officers yourself between the courts and the prison and then also the prison receiving office when you’re processed there. The receiving officer is supposed to ask you questions about safety issues such as these – you should answer these fully and honestly.

Assessments and checks after you’ve been processed

Corrections Act 2004, ss 47, 49; Corrections Regulations 2005, regs 44-47, 52F, 52N; Prison Operations Manual, I.04, M.02.01

After you’re processed you’ll have an assessment to identify what your needs are and what part of the prison you should be placed in. This will consist of various interviews and checks with different prison staff, including medical staff:

  • Health check – A nurse will come in and ask you a number of questions about your health and medical needs. This is called a “reception health screen” – see the chapter Health and disability. The nurse will also find out whether you need any medication, such as an asthma puffer.
  • Risk of self-harm – A prison officer will then talk to you and ask you how you feel about being in prison and how you’re feeling generally, and see if there’s any risk of you harming yourself – this is called an “at-risk assessment”.
  • Immediate needs – A prison officer will also carry out an “immediate needs assessment”. They’ll work through a checklist to make sure your immediate needs are met.
  • Gang issues – You’ll also be asked if you’re in a gang. If you are, or if you have any gang affiliations, the PCO of your unit will re-interview you within the next one or two days, to get more details and whether you expect to have any hassles with other gangs or with specific gang members.

Your at-risk assessment and immediate needs assessment must take place within four hours after you arrive at the prison. If there’s no time for the assessment you’ll be placed in a “clean” cell (a cell that only prisoners who have been searched are allowed in) until the assessment takes place.

How do I find out about the prison rules?

Corrections Act 2004, s 42

When you’re being processed or when you get to your unit, you’ll be given a piece of paper that sets out:

  • the prison rules
  • rules about prisoners’ property
  • what you’re entitled to in prison
  • what the disciplinary offences are
  • how to make a complaint.

If you haven’t been given this information, you can ask one of the prison officers for a copy.

The information must be given to you in the most appropriate form for you.

For example: If English is not your first language, the information should be provided in the language you understand.

What happens when I get to my unit?

Prison Operations Manual, I.07

There’ll be a brief induction process when you get to your particular unit. A prison officer will go through day-to-day activities, showers and meals, and they’ll give you a piece of paper with information about visiting times and other issues. A prison officer will also go through your cell with you, making sure there’s no damage to the cell.

You’ll also be given the following information:

  • how to access the First Days Booklet (including information on how to use the prisoners’ kiosk)
  • the Local Induction Handbook, which explains prison rules and practices
  • information on how mail and telephone calls are monitored
  • a copy of the “authorised property rules”, which sets out what types of things you’re allowed to have in prison.

Later on you’ll be given information about parole and residential restrictions. You’ll get this through your case manager when they do your sentence plan. It can take a few weeks before this is done. They’ll discuss with you all about qualifying for parole and about options for rehabilitation programmes while you’re in prison (like drug/alcohol programmes and programmes aimed at stopping re-offending).

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Starting your sentence

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