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What happens in prison

Entering a prison

When a person enters a prison, they will go through three steps: reception, induction and classification.

Reception: when they arrive, their personal details and a physical description will be recorded. The police will give prison staff the person's property and money, and they will get a receipt for these items. They will be strip-searched, asked to shower, given toiletries and clothes and undergo a medical examination. They will be photographed and interviewed by a correctional counsellor and allowed to make a phone call. They will be given an identification card. Finally, they will be allocated a cell.

Induction: the induction session will provide information about what to do and what is required in the centre. The information will include discipline and behaviour, resources and facilities, programs, the complaints process, work, visits, mail and telephone access.

Assessment: during this process, the person's health, education and intervention needs will be assessed. Their security classification will determine which centre they go to, and their access to training, intervention and work programs. Classification and assessment can take up to three weeks. Once it is completed, they may be transferred to another centre.

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Almost all cells in Queensland correctional centres are single cells, which contain a bed, shower and toilet. Prisoners are responsible for their cell's cleanliness and tidiness.

Prisoners may keep in their cells:

  • Centre-issued items: such as toiletries, clothing, footwear, and bedding. Some centres may issue a television, and the prisoner will need to pay a small weekly rental fee.
  • Personal items such as clothing (underwear and socks), writing paper, pen, bible, photographs and a watch.
  • Depending on where the prisoner is accommodated and their security classification, they may also be allowed extra books and study material, a cassette/CD/radio or other items that have been approved.
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Employment and programs

Prisoners are expected to work while in a correctional centre, depend on their security classification. Being employed in one of the centre's industries will provide the prison with extra money and skills they can use after they are released.

Soon after a prisoner enters a correctional centre, an education officer will assess their reading, writing and maths skills, and their general level of education. Most centres have courses to help prisoners improve these skills.

Other courses available to sentenced prisoners may include trades, business and computer studies. They may also be able to do distance education courses at high school, TAFE and university levels.

Prisoners will also have access to programs that deal with the behaviours that may have led to their offence or offences for which they were sentenced. These include anger management, substance abuse and cognitive skills. Programs such as stress management and communication skills, and relaxation may also be available.

Prisoners may also be required to participate in a psychological assessment. They may need to complete core programs in order to fulfil their sentence requirements.

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Prohibited and restricted items

Under the Corrective Services Act 2000, prisoner are not allowed to have with them, or in their cell, a range of items which include, but are not limited to: weapons, drugs, ammunition, flammable substances, explosives, grappling hooks, cutting instruments, false identification, passports, mobile phones, modems, scanners, alcohol, tattoo guns, unauthorised keys or any other item that might endanger the safety of others, or which might facilitate an escape.

They may have limited access to restricted items such as scissors, tools, ropes, ladders, electronic equipment, knives or prescribed medication only in circumstances and at times and places approved by the General Manager or authorised delegate.

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Dress regulations

Prisoners must wear regulation centre-issued clothes at all times whilst in the centre. They may be allowed to wear their own clothing if attending court, work or leave-of absence. Clothing must be kept neat and clean.

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Correctional centres are staffed by professionals in a range of fields. They are there to maintain security and safety and to help the prisoner to cope with, and make the most of, their time in custody.

They include:

  • Correctional officers and supervisors who are responsible for the management of offenders.
  • Community correctional officers who can provide advice and assessment about release on parole.
  • Education officers who help identify the prisoner's educational needs, advise them on courses, help with enrolments in external courses and arrange placements in internal classes.
  • Correctional counsellors who can help fill out forms, link prisoners with outside agencies and give advice on rehabilitation programs, financial matters and compassionate counselling.
  • Activities officers who organise sporting, cultural and hobby activities.
  • Vocational education officers who teach industry and workplace skills.
  • Psychologists who provide psychological assessment, treatment and intervention.
  • Drug and alcohol counsellors who can help with programs to deal with addiction.
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Daily routine

In most cases, a prisoner's days will be highly structured, with specific times for musters, meals, activities and work. Arrangements for weekends and public holidays may differ.

Musters: are conducted at set times during the day and require the prisoners to assemble at a specified area for identification.

Head Counts: are conducted randomly during both the night and day depending on the centre.

Meals: if the prisoner is accommodated in a residential unit, they may be able to prepare their own meals. Otherwise, meals are prepared in a central kitchen and taken in a communal situation.

Activities: each centre offers a range of educational, recreational and hobby programs.

Work: correctional centres offer a range of industries, which provide training and employment.

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Telephone access

Prisoners must pay for all their other personal calls. Families and friends cannot call a prisoner. The prisoner must make the call once they have approval.

The correctional centres use a phone system that enables the prisoner to select a personal identification number (PIN) and nominate in writing a list of phone numbers of people they may wish to call, including their legal representative.

Each person the prisoner nominates will be contacted to check for accuracy and to make sure they are willing to accept calls.

Calls are limited in duration. They are also recorded and may be monitored. If a prisoner wishes to change any of the numbers on their list, they will need to fill in an application form.

Calls can not diverted to other numbers and prisoners are not allowed to take part in a conference call. If they are caught, they may be charged with an offence.

Each centre has a community list of numbers (such as Prisoners Legal Service and Legal Aid Queensland) that prisoners can phone in addition to their personal phone list.

Prisoners are not permitted to call the TAB or any other gambling agency; information services; mobile phones; official visitors; paging services; another correctional centre; any government department; or any number beginning with 1900.

Receiving phone calls: normally, prisoners are not allowed to receive phone calls. If a prisoner thinks there might be an emergency when their family might need to phone them, they should discuss the matter with a staff member.

Paying for calls: a phone account will be set up for the prisoner with their own money and prisoners can transfer up to $100 from their trust account to their phone account.

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Personal mail and parcels

There is no limit to the number of letters a prisoner may send or receive. However, all mail will be searched for contraband. There is no censorship of mail unless authorised by the person in charge.

All outgoing mail (except privileged mail) must be placed unsealed, with the prisoner's name and address on the back of the envelope, in the box provided. Prisoners can buy pre-stamped envelopes at the centre.

A staff member will provide the prisoner with the centre's address so that they can give it to people who may wish to write to you.

Incoming mail (with the exception of privileged mail) should only contain letters and family photographs and will be opened and searched before the prisoner receives it. If the prisoner have approval, they may receive religious reading materials, underwear and court clothing through the mail.

Anything received through the mail that is considered a threat to security or safety at the centre will be seized and/or confiscated. The sender may be subject to criminal charges if illegal items are sent through the mail.

Privileged mail includes, but is not limited to, mail from the Director of Public Prosecutions, the prisoner's legal representative, a Community Corrections Board, the court, the Ombudsman or the Minister for Corrective Services. Privileged mail may be searched in the prisoner's presence if the person in charge suspects that it contains something that could threaten security or safety at the centre, or if it is prohibited.

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Last updated: 01 November 2010