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Prison

Changes to this area of law
There have recently been changes to this area of law. We are working to review the information on this page and how these changes may affect you.  Contact us to get help.

You may be held in custody (for example a prison, youth detention centre or a police watch-house) if:

  • you’re arrested for questioning 
  • you’re arrested and charged with a criminal offence and the police don’t give you watch-house bail before you go to court the first time
  • you’ve been to court, but you’ve put off your matter so you’re on remand, and the court doesn’t give you bail 
  • you’ve been convicted but you’re still waiting to be sentenced and the court doesn’t give you bail
  • you’re serving a sentence.

There are special rules for people under 17 being held in custody.

You still have basic rights while you’re being held in custody.

How long will I be in jail?

If you’re on remand, or arrested and not given bail, you’ll stay in jail until your next court date and then you can apply to the court for bail

If you’ve been convicted and sentenced to a period of imprisonment (a jail sentence) the court will say how long you have to stay in jail.

You might not have to stay in prison for your entire sentence. You can get advice from the Prisoners' Legal Service about how your sentence is calculated and whether you’re eligible for parole and early release.

Young people in custody 

If you’re under 17, you’ll be sent to a youth detention centre where young people are detained.

You’ll be automatically moved to an adult prison if:

  • you’re over 17 when sentenced for an offence you committed when you were under 17 and you’re sentenced to more than 6 months in custody, or
  • you turn 17 while serving a sentence in detention and you have 6 months or more left to serve in custody.

You’ll be given written notice of the transfer stating the date you’re to be moved. You can’t appeal a decision to be moved to an adult prison. Get legal advice.

Parole

You may not have to stay in prison for your entire sentence. You may be released on parole after you serve part of your sentence. If you’re released on parole, Queensland Corrective Services will supervise you until the end of your sentence and you must meet certain conditions, such as:

  • not breaking the law
  • receiving visits from a Corrective Services officer
  • telling Corrective Services within 48 hours if you change address
  • not leaving Queensland without permission
  • being tested for drugs and alcohol
  • attending courses, programs, meetings and counselling.

If you breach your parole conditions your parole may be suspended, amended or cancelled.

Suspending your parole

 Your parole may be suspended if:

  • you’ve breached a parole condition
  • you’ve been charged with a new offence
  • there is an unacceptable risk of you committing a new offence
  • there is a serious and immediate risk of you harming someone
  • you’re preparing to leave Queensland without permission.

If you breach a parole condition (eg by not reporting or returning a positive urine test), the Community Corrections office can suspend your parole for 28 days initially. This means you’ll be sent back to jail.
After suspending the parole order, the community corrections office sends a report to the parole board, which must decide whether to:

  • suspend the parole order for a further period
  • cancel the parole order
  • let you out after 28 days (known as a 28 day sanction).

The Prisoners' Legal Service can give you legal advice about conditions and breaches of parole.
If your parole has been suspended  because you’ve been charged with a new offence you should get legal advice.

Prisoners’ rights

Even when in jail you still have basic rights.

You have the right to:

  • Talk to a lawyer: You can ask to be put on the list to get legal advice from a Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ) lawyer. If you already have a lawyer representing you, they can arrange to see you and write to you, and for you to speak to them over the phone.
  • Receive Centrelink payments: Some Centrelink payments will continue if you’re on remand. Check with Centrelink.
  • Receive visitors (who aren’t lawyers): You can have visits of at least 1 hour a week. You may be able to have other special visits in certain situations. Not everyone will be allowed to visit you. Someone with a criminal conviction may not be allowed. Visitors may be searched, and can’t bring in items such as cigarettes and alcohol. Each prison has its own rules.
  • Send and receive letters and parcels: You can be sent letters and parcels, but the prison can read the letters and open the parcels. They may not let you have them if they think they’re not suitable.
  • Make and receive phone calls: You can pay to make calls to people, but the prison records calls and can listen to them. You’ll usually have to get permission to put a person on your call list. People aren’t allowed to ring you unless there is a family crisis.

You can also call some numbers for free, such as:

The prison doesn’t listen to these types of calls.

  • Have a leave of absence: You may be allowed to leave the prison for a period of time to work, study, see a doctor or dentist, or for other compassionate reasons.
  • Make a complaint: You can make a complaint in writing or see the official visitor.
  • Sue for damages: You can sue for damages while in jail if you’re sentence is less than 3 years in jail (if it’s more than 3 years, you’ll need the Public Trustee to agree).
  • Receive medical care: You can ask to see a doctor at the prison if you need medical treatment. You can also apply to see a private doctor, but conditions apply and you must pay for this yourself.
  • Keep your infant children with you: If you’re female you may be able to keep your baby with you. You’ll need to apply to the prison.
  • Vote: If you’re in jail, you can stay on the electoral roll or apply to enrol (with some exceptions). You can’t vote in state and local government elections if you’ve been convicted and are serving a sentence of imprisonment. See voting, census and jury duty. If you’re serving a full time jail sentence of less than 3 years, you can vote in federal elections, but if your sentence is 3 years or more you can’t vote in federal elections.
  • Change your name: If you want to change your name, you must get the written approval of the Chief Executive (Corrective Services) before applying to change your name. If you don’t, this is a criminal offence. 
  • Request a transfer: You can apply to be moved to another prison in Queensland or in another state.

Medical treatment in prison

If you need medical treatment, you can ask the unit officer at the prison to put you on a list to see a doctor. If you’re not seen by a doctor, you can write a letter to the prison’s general manager using the blue envelopes available at the prison.

If you’re still not seen by a doctor, get legal advice from Prisoners' Legal Service.

For complaints about health care treatment, contact the Health Ombudsman.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you:

  • are on remand, or arrested and not given bail, and you want to apply for bail
  • want to know how your sentence is calculated
  • have questions about parole or early release
  • have questions about the risk of deportation after sentencing
  • have new charges while on parole or while in custody
  • have had requests to see a doctor refused after writing to the prison’s general manager of the prison.

How to get legal advice

We may give legal advice about young people in custody, jail sentences, parole and prisoners’ rights. We can’t give advice about internal prison matters.

The following organisations may be able to help.

Prisoners' Legal Service gives specialist advice to prisoners about parole applications, breaches of parole conditions and issues within the prison, such as accommodation problems, transfer applications, disciplinary proceedings, and general help and advice.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.

Who else can help?

These organisations may be able to help. They don’t provide legal advice.

Sisters Inside gives support for women and their families while they are in prison and after they are released.

Probation and Parole has several roles including helping the courts and parole boards to assess an offender’s suitability for community placement, and helping offenders once they are placed back into the community.

Queensland Correctional Centres for Adults lists all correctional centres (prisons) operated by the Queensland Government.

Queensland Corrective Services - Prisoner Location helps determine whether a person is in custody, and where they are being held.

Related links and information
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