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Procedure Properties

Title: Mail - Prisoner Mail
Category: Custodial Operations - Standard Operating Procedures
Version: 01
Implement Date: 27 July 2011
Application: Custodial Operations
Availability: Public


Appendices and Forms

Associated Custodial Operations Standard Operating Procedures


  • Instrument of Delegation of Chief Executive Powers - Corrective Services Act 2006 (in-confidence)

Review Date: May 2013

Custodial Operations Standard Operating Procedure - Mail - Prisoner Mail

Performance Standard
2.Ordinary Mail
2.1Cost of ordinary mail
2.2Search and censor of ordinary mail
2.3Unwanted mail from prisoners
2.4Seizing ordinary mail
2.5Mail addressed to primary or secondary educational institutions
3.Australian Taxation Office Mail
4.Privileged Mail
4.1Cost of privileged mail
4.2Received privileged mail
4.3Sent privileged mail
4.4Search of privileged mail
4.5Seizure of privileged mail
4.6Register of privileged mail searches
5.Facsimile Mail

Performance Standard

A process must be established that provides for the control, administration and management of incoming and outgoing prisoner mail that preserves the good order and security of a corrective services facility. The process must be in accordance with -

Safety & Security - Our Principles - Incentive.

1. Conditions of daily life

We will manage prisoners in the least restrictive environment required for their humane containment.

Refer - Safety & Security - Our Principles

Chief Inspector Healthy Prisons 2007 - Standard 12 Contact with the Outside World

Prisoners are encouraged to maintain contact with the outside world through regular access to mail, telephones and visits.

Refer - Healthy Prisons Handbook

Standard Guidelines for Corrections in Australia Standard 3.21

Prisoners should be encouraged and where practical, assisted to develop and maintain their family ties and relationships through visits to the prisoner by family and friends and through the controlled use of telephones and letters.

Refer - Standard Guidelines for Corrections in Australia Revised 2004


Australian Postal Corporation Act 1989

Corrective Services Act 2006 ss 44-49, 52, 132, 263, 265, 291, 311-312, 317, Schedule 4

Corrective Services Regulation 2006 ss 18, 19, 45

1. General

The general manager of a corrective services facility must provide for the administration and control of incoming and outgoing prisoner mail including, for example-

  1. payment for anything required for the prisoner's mail if the general manager is satisfied that a prisoner does not have enough money to cover the postage costs. Refer Corrective Services Act 2006 (CSA) s 44;
  2. monitoring of all incoming and outgoing mail to and from a facility and compliance of all outgoing mail with the Australian Postal Corporation Act 1989; and
  3. the prompt on forwarding of all mail and packages to a prisoner following his/her transfer, release or discharge.

Prisoners subject to a domestic or family violence protection order are not permitted to contact people identified in that order.

Prisoner mail may be scanned -

  1. by a Passive Alert Drug Detection (PADD) dog; and/or
  2. by hand held metal detector; and/or
  3. an x-ray machine; and/or
  4. electronic drug/explosive detection device.

Refer standard operating procedure - Electronic Scanning Equipment

2. Ordinary Mail

Ordinary mail means mail that is not privileged mail (refer Corrective Services Regulation 2006 (CSR) s 18).

All money and valuables received in a prisoner's mail must be managed in accordance with CSA ss 311, 312. A receipt must be issued for money or valuables received and given to the prisoner.

Any items of property not previously authorised for issue received by mail must be returned to the sender if there is a return address. If there is no return address, the item is to be managed in accordance with CSA s 317 and CSR s 45.

2.1 Cost of ordinary mail

Refer CSA s 44

2.2 Search and censor of ordinary mail

Refer CSA ss 45, 46 and Instrument of Delegation of Chief Executive Powers - Corrective Services Act 2006 (in-confidence)

All outgoing ordinary mail must be left unsealed by the prisoner for monitoring purposes by corrective services officers prior to posting.

Outgoing ordinary mail must be addressed on the front of the envelope as follows -

Full name of the recipient

Residential street address/Post office box number

Suburb State Post Code

The prisoner must clearly write his or her name on the back flap of the envelope.

A stamp must be placed on the back of the envelope that provides the facility's mail address and a contact phone number.

Only a corrective services officer authorised by a delegate should open, search and censor ordinary mail and this should be done in the presence of another officer.

2.3 Unwanted mail from prisoners

The recipient of unwanted mail from prisoners may contact the facility (using the stamped information placed on the back of the envelope) if they do not want to receive further mail from the prisoner.

If contact is made, the recipient or the written response must be referred to an intelligence officer. The intelligence officer must ensure that the recipient and the prisoner are recorded on the targeted mail register. The prisoner must also be advised of the 'stop mail' condition put in place by the recipient. Refer appendix - Rubber stamp template for returned correspondence

Any further mail sent to the recipient by the prisoner must be seized and returned to the prisoner.

General managers should develop a local procedure to facilitate the process if necessary.

2.4 Seizing ordinary mail

Refer CSA s 48

For the storing and disposing seized property (including ordinary mail), refer procedure - Property of Offenders.

2.5 Mail addressed to primary or secondary educational institutions

Prisoners are prohibited from sending correspondence addressed to primary or secondary educational institutions except in the following cases -

  1. if there is an identified and demonstrable familial relationship between the prisoner and the addressee (for example, a prisoner writing to his or her child who is domiciled at a boarding school);
  2. if the correspondence is necessary to enrol or manage the enrolment of a dependant child in an educational institution; or
  3. if a prisoner is undertaking an approved course of study at an approved educational institution and the correspondence is course related.

Child sex offenders must not send mail to a primary or secondary educational institution under any circumstances.

3. Australian Taxation Office Mail

All prisoner-related taxation matters must be posted using only Australian Taxation Office (ATO) pre-paid pre-addressed envelopes. The envelopes are available from the QCS/ATO representative at each corrective services facility (usually the intelligence officer).

The QCS/ATO representative must maintain a tax pack register. This register must be kept with the envelopes and tax packs issued by the QCS/ATO liaison officer. When a prisoner requests an envelope and/or tax pack for posting, the prisoner must sign the register for these documents.

If all the issued envelopes and tax packs have been accounted for on the register, the register must be returned to the QCS/ATO liaison officer who must issue more envelopes and tax packs with a new envelope and tax pack register.

Refer appendix - Taxation Fraud Intelligence Process (in-confidence)

4. Privileged Mail

Privileged mail means mail that is sent to, or by, a person who is prescribed under CSR s 18 and appendix - Schedule of Authorised Persons for the Purposes of Privileged Mail.

4.1 Cost of privileged mail

A prisoner who uses the blue envelope system to post privileged mail is not required to meet the cost of postage.

4.2 Received privileged mail

Refer CSA ss 45-47, 263, 265

All privileged mail (including legal mail) received by a prisoner must -

  1. be recorded in a register, detailing the category of the prescribed person;
  2. not be subject to any form of opening or searching except as provided for under CSA s 45(2);
  3. not be read other than to confirm the privileged mail is from a prescribed person;
  4. be immediately delivered once it is established that it is from a prescribed person;
  5. prior to handing privileged mail to a prisoner, a corrective services officer confirms the identity of the prisoner to whom they are giving the privileged mail (eg ensure the prisoner's full name matches the name that appears on the privileged mail);
  6. be forwarded unopened to another facility without delay if a prisoner has been transferred to another facility;
  7. if the prisoner's current address is known, be forwarded to that address when received for a prisoner who has been released or discharged from a facility;
  8. if the prisoner's current address is unknown, be returned to the sender with an indication of the prisoner's status (released, discharged, escaped, etc); and
  9. privileged mail which is addressed ambiguously (eg with only a surname) be returned unopened to the sender; and
  10. full details of any misdirected (eg privileged mail provided to the wrong prisoner) or damaged privileged mail recorded along with an explanation of the occurrence.

A corrective services officer may -

  1. hand unopened privileged mail to a prisoner and request that the prisoner remove any contents and demonstrate to the officer that no unauthorised articles are contained (eg prisoner to shake the contents or flip through the pages of the mail) -the officer must not physically handle or read the contents of the mail at this point;
  2. request that the empty envelope be handed to the officer for inspection.

If the officer considers the privileged mail may contain an unauthorised article or may not be privileged mail or the prisoner refuses to comply with a) or b) above, refer section 4.4.

Refer CSA ss 263, 265

4.3 Sent privileged mail

Refer CSA s 45; CSR s 18(2)-(3)

Privileged mail sent by a prisoner to a prescribed person may be sealed by the prisoner without the presence of a corrective services officer and may be processed unopened, except in accordance with CSA s 45.

4.4 Search of privileged mail

Privileged mail to or from a prisoner is not subject to a standard search.

Only an authorised delegate (refer Instrument of Delegation of Chief Executive Powers - Corrective Services Act 2006 (in-confidence)) may conduct a search of privileged mail in accordance with CSA s 45.

If a corrective services officer considers privileged mail may contain an unauthorised article or may not be privileged mail, the officer must advise an authorised delegate. The authorised delegate must decide whether to conduct a search of the mail in accordance with CSA s 45.

Examples of when a corrective services officer may consider that privileged mail should be referred to an authorised delegate include-

  1. the envelope appears to have been tampered with;
  2. the envelope appears to contain objects that would not ordinarily be sent by a prescribed person (for example, the Ombudsman would only be likely to send documents to a prisoner);
  3. official markings on the envelope appear to be counterfeit;
  4. intelligence suggests that an associate of a prisoner is working for a legal firm or Government agency and may be using the privileged mail system to send prohibited items to the prisoner;
  5. an officer has reason to believe the envelope contains written or recorded material consisting of an interview or statement from a prisoner that has not been authorised under CSA s 132(2);
  6. positive indication by a PADD dog;
  7. x-ray machine indication of what may be an unauthorised article.

Under no circumstance should an authorised delegate read mail that is marked “privileged”, other than to establish that it is privileged mail in accordance with CSA s 45 (2) and (3), unless express written permission has been received from the prisoner to whom the mail is addressed.

If a search of privileged mail reveals information about the commission of an offence, the officer who has been authorised to conduct the search should first confirm that the mail is not merely discussing details of the offence for which the prisoner is currently detained.

4.5 Seizure of privileged mail

Refer CSA ss 46, 47 and Instrument of Delegation of Chief Executive Powers - Corrective Services Act 2006 (in-confidence)

If a search of privileged mail reveals a prohibited thing or something that may harm the person to whom the mail is addressed, the contents of the mail may be seized.

An intelligence officer must determine whether an offence has been committed (refer procedure - Breaches of Discipline).

4.6 Register of privileged mail searches

Refer CSA ss 49, 291

Each corrective services facility must maintain a register that records the details of searches carried out on privileged mail. The information recorded in the register must be completed as thoroughly as possible and the register made available for inspection by an official visitor upon request.

5. Facsimile Mail

Refer CSA ss 45, 52, Schedule 4

Facsimile mail may be received by, or sent on behalf of, a prisoner with the permission of the general manager of the corrective services facility if operationally convenient.

6. Return to Sender of Ordinary Prisoner Mail Received

Where a decision is made to return prisoner mail received to the sender (eg. an item which does not meet the criteria for issue approval). The envelope/package should be secured and addressed “Return to Sender” on the front with only a stamp (refer section 2.2 of this standard operating procedure) placed on the back of the envelope/package. No other corrective services facility identifiers should be placed on the envelope/package.

Endorsed by:


Deputy Commissioner, Custodial Operations

Approved by:


Version History

27/07/2011 Version 01