Working, studying and other activities on the inside


What are my rights when it comes to religion?

Corrections Act 2004, ss 79, 80

The prison must provide for your religious and cultural needs as much as is reasonable and practicable.

Can I see a minister of religion?

Yes. There are Protestant and Catholic chaplains at all prisons. Your own minister, of whatever religion, may also visit you at times that suit the prison, but they’ll need to get approval as a visitor in advance, just like all other visitors

For more information, see “Visits, phone calls and mail: Communicating with people outside prison

Can I keep important religious items in my cell (like a prayer mat, headdress or cross)?

Corrections Act 2004, s 43; Authorised Property Rules, 1.2

Yes, you have the right to keep at least one important religious item.

Can I pray at the times required by my religion?

Corrections Act 2004, s 79

Yes, you have the right to pray according to your religious beliefs while you’re in prison. If you think that your religious needs aren’t being properly met in prison, talk to your PCO about this. If necessary, you can complain to the prison inspector or to the Human Rights Commission, or to the Ombudsman.

See “Support” for contact details

What if my religion has specific dietary requirements?

Corrections Act 2004, s 72

The prison must make allowance for your religious, spiritual and cultural needs when deciding what food and drink you’ll have in prison. If you don’t think your dietary requirements are being met, talk to your PCO.

Can I keep the hairstyle or facial hair required by my religion?

Corrections Regulations 2005, reg 70

Yes. You can have whatever hairstyle you want and you’re also allowed to keep any beard or moustache that you had when you first came to the prison.

If you didn’t have a beard or moustache when you arrived but you want to grow one now, you may need to get permission for this first.

You can be required to cut your hair or shave your beard or moustache if the health centre manager believes this is necessary on the grounds of health, safety or cleanliness.

If you’re on remand you can have whatever hairstyle you like and can shave or grow facial hair as you choose.

Can I be made to work on days where I normally wouldn’t according to my religion?

Corrections Act 2004, s 81

No. If you wouldn’t normally work that day because of your religious beliefs, then you can’t be made to work, unless there’s an emergency.

Can I attend a tangi or funeral if someone close to me dies?

Corrections Act 2004, s 62; Corrections Regulations 2005, regs 26-29

You can apply for temporary release to attend a tangi or funeral, or for an escorted outing (temporary removal) – that is, attending while escorted by prison officers. The prison manager will decide this. If you’re refused permission, you’ll be given the reasons in writing.

Can I have my own service if I can’t attend a tangi or funeral?

Prison Operations Manual, F.11

You can apply to have a special religious service at the prison if you’re not able to attend a tangi or funeral or if the prison manager has refused you permission to attend. You can ask the kaitiaki, kaiwhakamana, fautua pasefika or chaplain to provide the prison with a letter supporting your application for a special service.

The prison manager will decide whether or not you can have the special service. If you’re refused permission, you’ll be given the reasons in writing.

Next Section | Voting in elections

Did this answer your question?

Working, studying and other activities on the inside

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

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top