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Imprisonment (ACT)

A court may only sentence a person to imprisonment if it is satisfied, having considered all possible alternatives, that no penalty other than imprisonment is appropriate. The ACT has three operational adult prisons and one youth detention centre. When a person is sentenced to imprisonment in the ACT, this is done under the Crimes (Sentencing) Act 2005. 

Sentences of imprisonment

In the ACT, there are three main ways that courts can order a prison sentence to be served. The first is by remaining inside a correctional centre  on a full-time basis.

The second is a suspended sentence where the prison sentence is suspended while the offender enters a Good Behaviour Order. A breach of the good behaviour order, either by conviction for a further offence or by not abiding by a condition of the order, can result in the immediate imposition of the prison sentence. (See separate page on Suspended Sentences).

The third way is an Intensive Corrections Order, which is a prison sentence served in the community. An ICO involves a separate assessment and, if found suitable, and imposed by the court, an ICO provides, as the names implies, for intensive supervision by Corrective Services, including the accelerated completion of community service, the imposition of curfews and travel and other restrictions and mandatory submission to drug and alcohol tests as well as mandatory compliance with any medical or psychiatric or other treatment or rehabilitation order (See separate page on Intensive Corrections Orders).

ACT courts can also impose combination sentences where an initial part of a sentence be served by full-time imprisonment, followed by a period of suspension followed by any of a good behaviour order, a fine order, a driver licence disqualification order, a reparation order, a non-association order and a place-restriction order (See separate page on Combination Sentences).

Will I have a criminal record?

If you are sentenced to period of imprisonment, then you will have a conviction recorded for the offence.

Imprisonment on remand

When a person is charged with offences in the ACT, they may be granted bail by the police or remanded in custody. If they are refused bail by the police, they must be brought before a court at the first opportunity and allowed to apply for bail if they wish to do so. If a person does not apply for bail or if the court refuses to grant bail, they will be held in prison on remand until their matter is finalised or until they are granted bail.

If a person is found guilty of offences after they have already spent a period of time in custody on remand, the court must take into account the time they have already spent in custody when it sentences them. If the court imposes a term of imprisonment, it must be backdated to the date the person first came into custody.


When a person is sentenced to imprisonment for a period of a year or longer in the ACT, the court must set a non-parole period. The non-parole period is the minimum period the offender has to spend in full-time custody before being eligible to be released on parole.

When the court sets the non-parole period, it must state when that period starts and ends. However, the court may decline to set a non-parole period if it considers that it would be inappropriate having regard to the nature of the offence or offences and the offender’s antecedents.

If the offender is subject to a sentence of life imprisonment, the court must not set a non-parole period for any other sentence of imprisonment that is imposed on the offender. Section 66 of the Crimes (Sentencing) Act provides that if an offender is sentenced to a further term of imprisonment while serving an existing sentence of imprisonment, any non-parole period set for the existing sentence is automatically cancelled.

If a sentence of imprisonment is partly suspended, the period for which it is suspended must be disregarded for the calculation of a non-parole period.

Any non-parole period set for the primary sentence must not make the offender eligible to be released on parole earlier than if the primary sentence had not been imposed.

Youth detention

When a person under the age of 18 is sentenced by an ACT court, the court has the option of sentencing the young person to a period in youth detention. Juvenile offenders who are refused bail are also held in youth detention until their matter is finalised or until they are granted bail.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Michelle Makela

This article was written by Michelle Makela

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (State and Federal Industrial Tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

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