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Jail is a sentence of last resort.

A court may not sentence you to imprisonment unless it is satisfied, having considered all possible alternatives, that no penalty other than imprisonment is appropriate.

An ACT court that sentences you to imprisonment must indicate to you, and make a record of, its reasons for doing so, including especially its reasons for deciding that no penalty other than imprisonment is appropriate.

The ACT has one prison, the Alexander Maconochie Centre, which accepted its first prisoners in 2009. The ACT Government claims it is a human-rights compliant facility, the ACT being one of only two jurisdictions in Australia with a Human Rights Act.

The information for these pages is drawn from the Alexander Maconochie Centre’s website:

Guide for Families

Visits to the AMC can be scheduled by a detainee’s family and friends from Wednesday to Sunday each week. Detainees are also permitted to have visits from legal and professional representatives 7 days a week.

People calling in to the prison can now leave messages when staff are unavailable to take a booking. It is important that a contact number is left so that staff can call back.

The centre advises that it is essential that visits are booked to avoid disappointment. If visiting for the first time, you should allow extra time to be scanned in and to have your details checked.

Booking Visits

To visit a detainee at the AMC you must book the visit at least 24 hours in advance by telephone on 02 6205 8589.

There are no visits on Mondays or Tuesdays. Visits on the other five days of the week can be made mornings, afternoons and evenings.

For any visit there is a limit of four adult visitors, and a reasonable number of children.

Types of Visits

There are four types of visits to the AMC, about which the centre says:

Contact: These visits are conducted in designated areas and permit limited physical contact between a detainee and a visitor.

Non-Contact: These exclude all physical contact between a detainee and a visitor, and are conducted in cubicles specified for this purpose.

Family: These take place in the family visits room, the purpose of which is to foster positive family relationships and ease the transition from prison to the community.

Family visits are a privilege and approval will depend on the detainee’s behaviour.

Subject to availability and to individual prisoner management and privileges, you can organise a self-cook barbecue in the Visits Centre during a contact visit. The barbecue packs must be ordered when you book the visit and must be paid for at least seven days in advance. Persons who use the barbecues are responsible for cleaning them, and cleaning materials are provided.

Professional: These can be made by a lawyer, an official visitor, the human rights commissioner, the public advocate and the Ombudsman.

An individual detainee’s visit types and times will be determined by his or her security classification. It is advisable to check current visiting times, and the times appropriate to the detainee, when you phone to make a booking. Detainees are limited to one visit per day.

Getting There

ACTION buses provide a regular service to the AMC from the Woden interchange. There is ample parking to the right of the entrance driveway for those arriving by car.

You should arrive at least 15 minutes before your scheduled visit.

What to Bring

On your first visit, you will need to present personal identification (100 points system including photo Government ID) for yourself and any members of your party over the age of 18.

On the first visit, you will need to present one piece of personal identification from List 1 and one from List 2. The identification must contain the visitor’s photograph and current residential address.

List 1

  • Driver’s Licence (from any Australian state or territory);
  • Passport (current or one that has expired in the past 2 years);
  • Proof of Age card;
  • Photographic identification.

List 2

  • Birth certificate (original or extract);
  • Electoral Roll (acknowledgement of receipt);
  • Utility records eg. water, gas, electricity, telephone (issued within 6 months of intended visit);
  • Current registration papers (car or boat);
  • Marriage Certificate;
  • Australian naturalisation or citizenship certificate;
  • Current entitlement card used by a Government Department or Authority;
  • Department of Immigration papers;
  • Rent or lease papers; or
  • Signed credit or debit card.

Each visitor must also have their eyes scanned before entry and exit. This data is only used for this purpose. Initial registration and use of the iris scanner can take up to 10 minutes per person but will simplify later visits by removing the need to provide detailed identification every time you visit.

To gain access to Visitor Reception you and your approved belongings will pass through a range of other electronic scanners. These scanners are very sensitive and will detect any prohibited or other items.

It is an offence under the Corrections Management Act 2007 to bring prohibited items into the AMC, give a prohibited item to a detainee, or remove a prohibited item from the AMC. This offence carries a maximum penalty of $10,000 or 1 year in prison, or both. A full list of prohibited items is included in the Visitor’s Handbook, and can be obtained from AMC reception staff.

What Not to Bring

A full list of prohibited items can be found in Reception, and includes items such as:

  • alcohol
  • illicit or non-prescribed drugs, needles or syringes
  • cameras and recording devices
  • mobile phones or mobile phone parts
  • weapons (or anything that can be used as a weapon)
  • keys
  • explosives or explosive devices

Other items you must not bring into the Visits Centre include cigarettes, money, cheques, gifts, valuables, jewellery, photos or letters, hats, scarves, sunglasses, food and drink.

Sending Money

All detainees have a trust account, in which family and friends can deposit money for the prisoner’s use. Detainees may use the money in their trust account to pay for telephone calls, and to purchase a range of items through the buy-up system.

Money for a detainee’s trust account may be deposited via cash, money orders or bank cheques at the AMC during reception opening hours. No personal cheques will be accepted. There is a limit of $150 per week that each prisoner can receive into their trust account.

Getting Out

The Transitional Release Centre was built “outside the wire” as a halfway house for detainees who are completing their sentences and are due for release and have met certain, stringent criteria.

Generally, detainees accommodated in the TRC will have begun work experience in the community which they attend daily.

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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