Getting out of jail


Returning home to family from jail can be challenging for the prisoner and their family. Family roles and relationships have often changed and it can be hard to adjust.

Former prisoners may find it tough to step back into community life. Finding work and coping without the structure and routine of the correctional centre may be difficult. Family members may not fully understand what the former prisoner is going through. Often there are expectations which can’t be met.

Planning for release

Prisoners are encouraged to start planning for their release three to six months before they leave the correctional centre, especially if they’ve been inside for a long time. Prisoners may do the NEXUS program which helps them get ready.

Day leave

Prisoners can apply for day or weekend leave if they’re classified minimum security C3 (men) or Category 1 (women). They must:

  • Be serving a sentence of six months or more
  • Be a month or less away from having served half their sentence
  • Be within 18 months of release
  • Be free of dirty urines (tests in which drugs are detected) for six months.

Parole

About six out of ten prisoners get parole. Parole is when an offender serves some of their sentence in a jail and the rest in the community. For sentences under three years, parole is usually granted automatically. To get parole, offenders need to have a stable place to live.

A parole officer will need to visit and check this before the person’s parole is approved. If the offender plans to live with family, the parole officer will make sure that members of the household support this plan.

Offenders on parole have to keep to set conditions. This includes contact with a parole officer. Parole officers work from a Community Offender Services office. They can help with referrals to community agencies, help finding study or employment, and help with programs designed to keep offenders from going back to jail.

Release day

Prisoners will be expected to organise their own transport back home. It’s a big encouragement to them if they have someone to meet them at the gate when they’re released. However, if you want to set limits about the support you can give your family member, meeting them at the gate may give the wrong message. Correctional centre staff can organise travel vouchers for prisoners who don’t have any other transport options.

Post release programs

Post-release programs can help prisoners make the transition back into the community.

PEET (Pathways to Employment Education and Training) TAFE runs PEET through Community Offender Services (Parole) offices in different parts of NSW.

Community Offender Services Programs. Parole officers provide group programs that may include Drug and Alcohol Addiction, Relapse Prevention or Anger Management. Programs for Aboriginal participants may include involvement from local Elders. Phone (02) 9288 8700.

Community Restorative Centre (CRC) CRC runs the BASE (Balancing Addictions, Strengthening Energies) program, which can teach strategies to deal with anxiety and anger. CRC also provides support services and referrals. Phone (02) 9288 8700.

The Getting Out and How to Survive It Book

The Community Restorative Centre has developed a guidebook for prisoners to help in the days and months after release. It has lots of tips on coping on the outside, contact details for services that can help, and stories from people who have survived the experience.

It may also help families understand what their family member is going through. The book includes information about transitional accommodation and rehab services that can accommodate prisoners on release. To get a copy, phone CRC on (02) 9288 8700.

Armstrong Legal gratefully acknowledges the excellent work performed by the CRC and for their permission to disseminate the information on this page.

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