When someone is sent to jail, it can be very difficult for friends or family members, they may feel angry or upset and they may not know how best to help the person.
One thing that often causes stress and difficulty is learning to negotiate the jail system. If you know someone who has been sent to a correctional centre you will no doubt have many questions about how that system works, how you can contact that person and what you can do to best support them through this time.
it is very frustrating when you travel all the way to visit someone, only to find they have been moved to another jail. it is also difficult when you know someone who has been sentenced but are not sure where they are.
You need to know the MIN of the person you are trying to locate. If you don’t know their MIN you need their full name and Date of Birth. It also helps if you are a member of their immediate family.
If you have any questions about a transfer you can phone the Inmate Placement Office:
PH (02) 8346 1000 – After hours (7 days to 10pm) PH (02) 9289 5258.
Alternatively, CRC Family Support Service can ease these troubled times by providing information, advice and support to families from the courts through to release. CRC Family Support Service can be contacted by phone on (02) 9288 8700.
At Armstrong Legal we are committed to providing all of the advice and support that clients and their families need to get through their encounter with the criminal justice system. This page seeks to provide clear answers to some of the question that you may have.
Who can Visit?
There are no restrictions on who can visit an inmate. Up to four adults can visit at one time.
How do I Arrange A Visit?
- Find out which jail they are in. To locate someone is in the corrective services system, contact Sentence Administration on 8346 1310 (9am–5pm Mon–Fri). If you are calling after hours use 9289 5258.To locate an inmate you will need to provide their date of birth or MIN.
- Call up that jail to book a visit day and timeThis can be done by letter or during a phone call and will ensure that they will be ready and available when you visit.
- Call Sentence Administration before you leave. Inmates can be moved at very short notice, so it is a good idea to call and check that the inmate is still in the same correctional centre and that that centre is not in lockdown as soon as possible before you leave to avoid the disappointment of not being able to visit.
- Arrive early to your visit. Correctional centres are often located in remote areas so factoring in travel time is important. You may be required to wait until the visit can be facilitated so leave yourself plenty of time.
- Get a VIN number. On your first visit you will be given your own VIN. This is the number that you will use on each visit to identify yourself. You will also need to take some form of identification (eg: driver licence, passport) with you each time that you visit an inmate.
What Should I Take to a Visit?
Each inmate has an account where they can keep up to $100 for the purchase of things like toiletries, additional food, clothing, personal items and telephone calls. Using your VIN you can deposit money into an inmate’s account. You can also post money between visits using a money order from a post office.
Things to show
While visiting you are not allowed to give anything to an inmate, but you can take things like photographs and children’s artworks to show them while you are there.
Things to give
Some jails will allow you to leave items such as socks and underwear for an inmate when you visit. Usually these are given to jail staff and handed on to the inmate later on. You will need to check if this is allowed by the centre where the inmate is located before bringing gifts.
What Shouldn’t I Take to A Visit?
Clothing with metal
On your way into the correctional centre you will be required to pass through a metal detector. It is worth thinking carefully about the clothes that you wear to the visit to ensure that you are not held up, or holding up others by triggering the metal detector.
If you have medication that you have to have on you at all times, then you can bring that with you into jail. However, it needs to be in its original packaging with your name on it and it is a good idea to bring your prescription along as well. Once in the jail you will need to give these things to staff to take care of while you visit.
You need to ensure that you have no illicit drugs on your person or in your car when you visit. Sniffer dogs are often used at correctional centres to ensure that drugs are not being conveyed to inmates by visitors. Being found with drugs on your person or in your car will result in very serious consequences, including criminal charges and bans from visiting an inmate.
The offence of bringing, or attempting to bring any quantity of any prohibited drug into a correctional centre carries a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison and a $5,500 fine (s27B Summary Offences Act 1988). The lawyers at Armstrong Legal are highly experienced in the area of drug related offences. If you have been charged with bringing prohibited drugs into a correctional centre we will be able to offer you advice and assistance.
Mobile phines and SIM cards
Weapons, lighters and matches
What Happens at A Visit?
When you arrive at the correctional centre you will be required to prove your identity and pass through security. This process could involve sniffer dogs and a metal detector.
For contact visits you will be led into a room where the visit will be conducted. At all times you are required to stay seated at a table, however you are allowed to touch, hug and kiss the inmate.
If the correctional centre has a concern for the safety of you or the inmate, or if they otherwise believe it to be necessary, you may be required to meet for a non-contact visit, where you are separated from the inmate by glass, and no physical contact is allowed.
What are the Rules for Visiting?
You will not be allowed in if you are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
If you behave in a disruptive way you may be forced to leave, and could be barred from returning
You must stay seated on chairs, you may not sit on laps or on tables
You can only make contact with the inmate that you are authorized to visit, and cannot join other visitors at other tables
Can I Take Children to a Visit?
Children can visit inmates, but they must be accompanied by an adult. If you are bringing children with you to a visit remember that you need to bring identification for them as well as yourself (passport or birth certificate).
If you don’t think that your children will be able to behave themselves for the duration of a visit, or you do not want to take them with you there are childcare facilities called SHINE at several correctional centres where you can leave your children while you visit an inmate. For more information call 9714 3000 (Sydney); 4582 2141 (Windsor); 6332 5957 (Bathurst) or visit www.shineforkids.org.au.
If an inmate is in custody for offences involving child victims there are special requirements that must be met before children will be allowed to visit. Call the Child Protection and Coordination Support Unit on 8346 1333 for more information.
What Happens If I’m Barred from Visiting?
If you break any of the rules of the jail while visiting you can be removed from the correctional centre and barred from returning. This bar can be imposed either by the particular correctional centre or by the Commissioner of Corrections.
If the bar is imposed by the particular centre that you have been visiting it only applies to that centre, so you are still able to visit other jails. The terms of the bar are at the discretion of the General Manager of the centre. They make a decision as to whether you are barred completely or just from particular types of visits; whether you can still visit some inmates while barred from visiting others and how long the bar is for. If you wish to appeal that decision you need to write to the General Manager, addressing the reasons for which you were barred. There is no formal process of review for such a decision.
If you have been barred by the Commissioner you will receive a formal letter outlining the terms of the Commissioner’s direction. This decision is made under the regulation 108 of the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Regulation 2014.
The Commissioner will consider one request to review a decision made under the Regulations. This request needs to be made in writing and should address the circumstances that caused you to be barred, whether you prejudice the good order and security of the correctional centre and whether on previous visits you have acted in a threatening, offensive, indecent, obscene, abusive or improper way. It should include your full name, date of birth, VIN and an address for the Commissioner to respond to.
The letter should be addressed:
To the Commissioner of Corrections
Visits Review Unit
Locked Mail Bag 3
Australia Post Business Centre
SILVERWATER NSW 1811
Even though the Commissioner has directed that you be prevented from visiting any correctional centre, it is within the Commissioner’s power to nonetheless permit you to continue to visit a particular inmate or a particular correctional centre subject to any condition that the commissioner considers to be appropriate. If you are only intending on visiting one inmate, it is recommended that you identify that inmate in your letter of appeal (by name and MIN) and indicate that if the Commissioner is unwilling to vary the ban they might consider allowing you limited visiting rights.
If, after reviewing your case, the Commissioner maintains your bar from jail visits there is little more that can be done to reverse the decision. In limited circumstances the matter may be reviewable by a court or by NCAT. If you are in this position the solicitors at Armstrong Legal are familiar with the principles and practices of judicial and administrative review and may be able to help you.
How Else Can I Make Contact?
Unfortunately there is no way for you to place calls to an inmate. However, they can call you. Each inmate has a phone card with 6 numbers on it that they can call. Inmates can have this card programmed to include family, friends, their lawyer and other services as required.
When you receive a call from an inmate you will first be informed that you are receiving a call from a correctional centre. Once the inmate is on the line you will have up to 6 minutes to speak.
Please note that even when you make arrangements for an inmate to call you at a certain time or on a certain day, things outside of their control can get in the way of them being able to contact you. Often there are queues to use the phones, or there is an incident at the jail that causes the inmates to be locked down and so calls are not allowed.
Letters to inmates are encouraged. The MIN of an inmate should be clearly printed on main that you send. Also be aware that all letters are opened by prison staff and screened for illegal activity before they are passed on to inmates. Some correctional centres allow friends and family to send clothing, books and magazines to inmates, but you will need to enquire with the specific centre before sending anything more than letters.
If you live too far away from the correctional centre, or if you or other members of an inmate’s friends and family are hindered from visiting in person by disability or age, visits via video link can be arranged.
An inmate can apply for a video visit from inside the correctional centre and can nominate up to 4 adults and 4 children to participate in the visit. The application process takes around 2 weeks. If and when the application is approved you will get a call to coordinate the visit. You will be required to go to somewhere with the necessary technology for the visit.
Video visits can go for up to one hour, and you can bring whatever you like to show through the screen.
What can I do if I have a Problem with Jail Staff on a Visit?
You should first ask to speak with the most senior staff member on duty or wait and call the General Manager of the correctional centre on the next working day to make your complaint.
If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your complaint at the correctional centre level you can write to the Commissioner of Corrections or in limited circumstances contact the NSW Ombudsman.
WHERE TO NEXT?
If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.