Are you going to jail for the first time in Australia? Here’s everything you need to know.
This article is for general information only and should not be relied on for specific legal advice. The author will not be held responsible for any action that a person takes as a result of the interpretation of the contents of this article. It is important to seek specific advice from a qualified and experienced lawyer for any legal problem.
If you are convicted of a serious offence, you may be sentenced to jail for a period of time. If you are sentenced to jail by the court then you will be immediately taken into custody. You will generally not have time to say goodbye to friends and loved ones and give them a hug. You will be immediately taken into custody by either the Queensland Police Service Officers or Corrective Services Officers depending on the location.
If you think that you are going to be sentenced to jail then it is a good idea to have the following on you before you go to court;
- A list of all the names and telephone numbers of Family, Friends and your lawyer;
- Cash (you cannot take any more than $1,000.00 into a correctional facility);
- Any medication that you are required to take.
DO NOT have anything on you that would be illegal i.e., drugs, weapons as you will be charged with these offences. You cannot smoke in a watchhouse or a jail so don’t take cigarettes or tobacco with you.
You will be taken to the nearest watchhouse. Some watchhouses are attached to the courts. When you arrive at the watchhouse you will be processed by the officers. You will be strip-searched and all property will be removed from you. If you have a mobile phone with you then that will be taken and switched off. You will then be formally identified, photographed, fingerprinted and entered into the custody records. A risk assessment will be conducted as to whether or not you are a risk of self-harm or harm to any other person. A health check will be conducted and any medication will be assessed by the watchhouse nurse.
You will then be placed in a cell, usually with other prisoners. The watchhouse cell is very basic and you will only have access to a bed, a toilet and a TV and you will be provided with meals and any medication that you are required to take.
A prisoner will remain at a watchhouse until a vacancy becomes available at the nearest remand centre. This period of time will vary but could be as little as 24 hours or as long as 2 weeks.
If you are sentenced from a court in South East Queensland then you will be taken to the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Center in Wacol Brisbane. If you are sentenced by a regional court then you will be taken to your nearest jail.
Locations of Queensland Jails
|Arthur Gorrie||3068 Ipswich Road
Wacol QLD 4076
|(07) 3212 0411||High|
|Borallon||75 Ivan Lane
Ironbark QLD 4306
|(07) 5460 8401||High|
|Brisbane Correctional Centre (BCC)||234 Station Road
Wacol QLD 4076
|(07) 3909 1300||High|
|Brisbane Womens Correctional Centre||Grindle Road
Wacol QLD 4076
|(07) 3271 9000||High|
North Rockhampton QLD 4701
|(07) 4912 6200||High and Low|
|Helena Jones (Womens)||374 Sandgate Road
Albion QLD 4010
|(07) 3624 8033||Low|
|Lotus Glen||Chettle Road
Mareeba QLD 4880
|(07) 4093 3911||High and Low|
Aldershot QLD 4650
|(07) 4123 7600||High|
Wacol QLD 4076
|(07) 3271 9500||High|
|Numinbah||2458 Nerang-Murwillumbah Road
Numinbah Valley QLD 4211
|(07) 5533 4131||Low|
|Palen Creek||12113 Mt Lindesay Highway
Rathdowney QLD 4287
|(07) 5544 3700||Low|
|Southern Qld||Millers Road
Spring Creek QLD 4343
|(07) 5466 6888||High|
|Townsville||22 Dwyer Street
Townsville QLD 4811
|(07) 4430 5999||High and Low|
Woodford QLD 4514
|(07) 5496 1111||High|
What Happens if You Are Sentenced to Jail?
You will be transported from the watchhouse to the jail in a secure vehicle by either Queensland Police or Queensland Corrective Services officers. When you initially arrive you will be processed by the jail staff who will confirm your identity and formally admit you to the jail.
Your property will be taken from you and you will again be strip-searched and given a medical examination. You will be allowed to take a shower and you will be issued with prison clothes (green in colour) – this is the standard prisoner ‘uniform’. You will then be interviewed by a counsellor and allowed to make a phone call. You will then be assessed for security classification (i.e., if you are a high-risk prisoner) and then allocated a cell.
You will then participate in an induction where you will learn about how the prison works and its rules. You will be shown what is required of you and the expectations of the jail. You may be reclassified and re-assessed at any time at the discretion of the jail. You may be relocated to another prison if required at any time.
What Happens Once You Are Sentenced to Prison
Day-to-day life as a prisoner is highly structured and based on a strict routine. There is the requirement for regular musters and head counts and assignment of tasks for the day. The vast majority of the time however is described as boring which is why many prisoners take up exercise or seek employment in the jail if they can.
In most prisons in Queensland, there are single cells that house one prisoner. In times of accommodation shortages, however, the cells may house two prisoners with a portable bed. In each cell, there is a bed, a shower and a toilet. Each prisoner is responsible for their own cell and they are responsible for keeping it neat and tidy at all times. A prisoner will generally be able to keep their own personal effects in their cell including letters, photos, books and stationery, sometimes a television, a radio, a bible or religious writings, and educational items. Prisoners will spend long periods of time in their cells but will be allowed to move throughout the prison at meal times, for exercise, visits by family and friends and their lawyer, and also for medical appointments. If the prisoner has a job, then they will be permitted to move within the jail for their employment.
The cells are searched from time to time and any prohibited items (“contraband”) will be seized. These items include drugs, weapons, mobile phones and any other items that are not permitted, and which pose a threat to the security of the jail. If a prisoner has prohibited items in their cell, they could be charged with a criminal offence and/or punished by the jail. This could include the transfer to another cell, transfer to another jail, isolation from other prisoners, removal of rights including visits and removal from employment privileges.
You have to wear prison-issued clothes at all times however you may be allowed to wear your own clothes (i.e., suit) to court if you wish.
There is no obligation for a prisoner to work whilst they are in jail, however most people choose to
work if they are given the opportunity. Prisoners generally choose to work so that they can earn some money which will be added to their prison account, and also to give them something to do to prevent the boredom.
Work can be sourced to assist with the day to day running of the prison such as in the kitchen, cleaning or laundry. There may be other jobs available from time to time in industries such as maintenance, metal, leather and woodworking. A prisoner will receive payment based on a rate determined by the jail. This is not the same as the minimum wage and prisoners are not covered by industrial relation entitlements.
If a prisoner is employed whilst they are in jail then this will reflect well on any later applications for parole. If a prisoner wants to work but there is nothing available then they may be entitled to a small unemployment payment.
A prisoner may also be engaged in unpaid employment if they are part of a training program or vocational program. This is good for gaining skills in areas that they might be able to use when they are released.
In addition, there are educational, rehabilitation and other interest courses conducted from time to time in the prison system. There is also generally access to a library for educational and research purposes.
Prisoners have the right to access medical and health facilities whilst they are in jail. These facilities are however extremely limited and the right to Medicare is lost whilst in jail. Generally speaking, over the counter medication such as Panadol is not available. Each prisoner will be given a health check when being admitted into the jail and there is access to a doctor whilst in jail if required. The responsibility of health within the jail is the responsibility of the Department of Corrective Services and the Health Department.
There is a general complaint that there is poor access to medical treatment whilst in jail. This includes both physical health and also mental health. There is generally poor access to counsellors and psychologists. If the complaint is non-life-threatening then it can take a number of days or even weeks for the prisoner to see a doctor. Generally, prescription medication is crushed and given to the prisoner to take under the supervision of a nurse. This is to prevent the trafficking of drugs within the jail.
A prisoner must comply with any reasonable direction given to them by prison doctors. This can include the requirement for blood and urine samples and also for body cavity searches. If the prisoner fails to comply with the direction, then force may be used.
Purchasing Items in Jail
A prisoner will have an account in which they have money and will be allowed to purchase personal items. The maximum amount of money that can be held in the account is $1,000.00 and deposits can be made by family and friends. You will be allowed to purchase food items from the canteen and personal items for recreation such as art and hobby items allowed by the jail. You can purchase personal items such as underwear and shoes and you may be able to rent a television from the jail. If you wish to send letters then you can purchase stamps from your account. You can pay a victim of crime levies from this account or you may be required to pay for any prison items that you intentionally destroy or damage.
No prisoner is able to receive telephone calls unless there are exceptional circumstances and permitted by the jail. A prisoner however is able to received pre-booked telephone calls from their lawyer.
A prisoner is able to make calls to locations outside of the jail through the Arunta telephone system. To make calls, the prisoner will need to open a telephone account and nominate the phone numbers that they wish to call. They will need to nominate the name and address of the person that they wish to maintain contact with.
The prisoner is able to have up to $300.00 on their telephone account at any one time. The prisoner is responsible for the cost of each of the calls they make. Prisoners will not be permitted to telephone banned persons, ex-prisoners, or businesses.
Prison staff are able to make enquiries about the person that the prisoner wishes to speak with. The telephone calls are recorded and monitored.
There is no limit to the number of letters that you send or receive from the jail. You will have to pay for any stamps from your account. Jail staff have the power to open and review all correspondence and packages that are coming into or going out of the jail. The prison has the power to seize any items of correspondence that pose a risk to the security or good management of the jail or would otherwise amount to an offence.
Visiting a Prisoner in a jail
A prisoner is entitled to receive visits from people that are not in custody. A prisoner is entitled to one non-contact visit per week from family and friends. A prisoner is also entitled to visits from their lawyer as required. In order to visit a prisoner, a person must make an application to the jail which will need to be approved. A person will be approved if it is appropriate in the circumstances taking into account the safety and security of the prison. Contact visits are approved with visitors once they have passed a security clearance which generally takes about 6 – 8 weeks.
Visitors will be screened and sometimes searched when they enter the correctional facility. If they refuse to be searched then they will not be able to enter the jail for the visit. If the prison officials reasonably suspect that the person is in possession of drugs or weapons then they can call the police for them to investigate.
Prison Visitor Application Process
Before you can visit someone in jail you must complete an application form (Form 27).
You will need to complete the form, provide identification and declare whether or not you have any criminal convictions. Once you are approved then you will need to take identification with you to the visit. Most facilities require you to provide an electronic fingerprint sample to allow you to gain access to the jail on each visit. The biometrics sample will be checked each time you visit by you placing your finger on an electronic reader to allow you to gain access to the jail. You cannot just turn up at the jail, you will have to make a booking in advance each time you want to visit.
You must arrive at your visit early otherwise you might be prohibited from entering. You cannot smoke or take any tobacco products into the jail.
What Can a Visitor Bring Jail?
You cannot bring anything to the prisoner in a jail. You cannot give them any money or bring them any items such as mobile phones. Smuggling drugs into a centre is a very serious criminal offence and if you are detected then the matter will be referred to the police. You cannot bring any money, documents or any other personal items with you to your visit. You can bring socks and underwear and court clothes if you wish. You will however need permission from the jail before you can bring them.
You are able to mail other items to the prisoner such as letters, cards, and photos. Remember that all items in the post will be scanned and searched.
Remember also that you are able to deposit money into the prisoner’s account. You cannot bring cash with you to actually give to the prisoner.
What Can a Visitor Wear to Prison?
You should familiarise yourself with what you can and can’t wear BEFORE you leave home to go to the visit. There are very strict rules about what you can wear and if you don’t comply with these rules then you may be refused entry. You cannot wear anything that is in poor condition, revealing or provocative in nature. You must have closed shoes and cannot wear thongs. You cannot wear singlets or any shirts without sleeves. You are able to wear your wedding or engagement ring but you cannot wear any other jewellery during the visit.
How Long Is the Visit?
The prisoner will be allowed 2 hours of visiting time for family and friends per week (this does NOT include time with lawyers or official visits). So, the prisoner can have two visits of one hour duration each or one visit of 2 hours.
Can Children Visit a Prisoner?
Yes, children can visit a prisoner. However, it must be established that there is a relationship between the child AND it is in the best interests of the child to visit the prisoner. An application form must be completed to allow a child entry into jail and approval must be given first before a child can visit a prisoner.
Consequences of Breaches of Prison Discipline
Jail is a highly regulated and controlled environment and breaches of discipline are dealt with seriously. The prison guards and officials have the power to give reasonable directions to prisoners. If the prisoner refuses to obey that direction, then they will be punished. Officers are able to use force if required to maintain good order within the prison. In extreme circumstances (i.e., an escape), officers have the power to use lethal force if required.
If an officer suspects that there has been a breach of discipline then they will conduct an investigation. Their conclusions can be reviewed if the prisoner is not satisfied with the outcome. The consequences of a breach can include; removal of privileges, moving to another unit within the jail, removal to another jail, and possibly more criminal charges. The punishment will be dependent on the breach and also the record of the prisoner. The incident may be viewed as a one off and isolated incident or it could be viewed as a pattern of behaviour.
Breaches of discipline can include;
- Disobeying a lawful direction from an officer;
- Possessing or concealing a prohibited item;
- Consuming drugs or alcohol;
- Bad behaviour;
- Criminal offences (i.e., assault, rape)
Applying for Parole
If you are sentenced to a period of imprisonment by a court of three years or less then you will receive court-ordered parole. That is, the court will tell you when you will be released from jail. If, however, you receive a jail sentence of more than 3 years then you will receive a parole eligibility date. That is a date when you are eligible to apply for parole. If you are declared a Serious Violent Offender then you will have to serve at least 80% of your sentence.
Parole is the release of a prisoner into the community under certain conditions. The jail sentence will still apply but the sentence is served in the community under the supervision of a parole officer and not in jail. The prisoner must apply to the Parole Board to be released on parole.
If you are released on parole then you will be subject to strict supervision by a parole officer. This will include the checking of your accommodation, regular visits and interviews with the officer, drug and alcohol screening, and the requirement to attend courses and appointments with professionals such as counsellors and psychologists. You will not be allowed to leave the state of Queensland whilst you are subject to parole unless you receive prior written consent from your parole officer.