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Guide for Families of Prison Inmates

When a friend or family member goes to prison, it can be very difficult to contact them and stay in touch with them. This article provides some information for the families of those who have been sent to jail.

Locating a prisoner in NSW

In order to establish which prison a person is being held in, you need to know their MIN (Master Index Number) and/or date of birth. All inmates are issued with a MIN, upon entering a correctional facility. If you don’t know the person’s MIN, you need their full name.

If you have any questions about a transfer, ring the Inmate Placement Office o:

  • Business Hours – (02) 8346 1000
  • After hours –  (02) 9289 5258 (7 days per week up until to 10 pm)

If you need help with these phone calls, ring the Community Restorative Centre: (02) 9288 8700.

Arranging the visit

When making a booking for the first time, an adult visitor will be allocated a VIN (Visitor Index Number), provided they give a suitable form of identification (ID), such as a Drivers Licence or Medicare card number. Due to mobile phone restrictions in correctional centres, you cannot use your mobile phone to establish your identity with an electronic version of your licence or other documents, these must be in hard copy.

Children under 18 years do not need to provide identification if accompanied by an adult.

There is also a Biometric Identification System used at most correctional facilities, which are used to photograph a visitor’s face, scan their irises and capture their fingerprints.

When you’re visiting someone in jail, it is a good idea to check that they are still in jail before you visit. To check, ring the jail directly. By phoning first, you can also check what things you are allowed to take with you, or if you need to book the visit.

Application for travel and accommodation assistance

The Community Restorative Centre (CRC) may be able to provide some assistance to you if you are travelling to visit a family member in prison. You may be eligible for reimbursement of some of the travel and accommodation costs related to the visit if:

  • You have a close family member or close kinship relative in custody in a NSW Correctional Centre;
  • You have to travel at least 100 km to visit them;
  • You experience financial hardship which may restrict you from visiting your loved one;

Please download the PDF Application below to assess whether you are eligible for travel and accommodation assistance: Travel and Accommodation Assistance Information and Form PDF

Sending money

Prisoners need money to pay for phone calls or order items such as toiletries, additional food, clothing, tobacco, papers and personal items. Prisoners are not allowed to have money or other items, such as stamps, on them. All purchases are deducted directly from their prison account.

When you visit a prisoner, you can deposit money in person at the jailor at the Prisoner’s Account Department. Ask at the visitor’s area about the right place to do this. You can deposit cash or a money order.

It is a good idea to ring and check that you can deposit money on the day you visit, as this department is not open every day. To deposit money, you need to know the prisoner’s full name, their MIN or date of birth. You will also need your own ID with your address on it and your visitor information number. Don’t forget to ask for a receipt.

You can also send a money order through the mail to the jail the prisoner is in. Do not send cash or cheques. You need to enclose a letter stating the prisoner’s full name and MIN or date of birth.

Remember to write your name and address and ask for a receipt. They will send one out to you. If you don’t give the jail enough details, they can withhold the money until the prisoner is discharged.

Prisoners can only receive up to $100 a week in total for their personal use and only have a maximum of $100 in their account. If you send any more, it will be put into another account and they won’t be able to use it until they are released from prison.

Transferral of prisoners

Finding out that your friend or family member is being transferred to another jail can be distressing, especially if that makes it harder to visit, or makes them feel unsafe. Trying to get a prisoner transferred to be nearer family and friends can also be stressful.

To request or object to a transfer, a prisoner needs to go to a wing officer, welfare or services and programs officer and get an application form (bluey). They need to write why they do or don’t want to be transferred. This form is then given to the classifications officer for consideration.

Reasons for requesting or opposing a transfer might be:

  • The prison is too far for family and friends to visit, or there is no public transport
  • Family or friends can’t get to prison because of disability
  • The prisoner is afraid for their safety because of other prisoners.

Bear in mind that most prisons are in rural and regional areas. Transfers can be hard to get and the process can take several months. Corrective Services also has a duty to keep prisoners safe and this can take several months.

Interstate transfers

There is a process for transferring from one state to another but it is long and complicated.

How the community restorative centre can help

The Community Restorative Centre (CRC) is a NSW community organisation dedicated to supporting people affected by the criminal justice system, particularly prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families and friends. Their staff offer personal and practical assistance such as counselling, accommodation, a subsidised transport service, a court support service, outreach to prisons, and information, advice and referrals.

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

Tyson Brown

This article was written by Tyson Brown

Tyson Brown holds a Bachelor of Business from Swinburne University, a Juris Doctor from RMIT and a GDLP from ANU. He is admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the High Court of Australia. Tyson is a valued and trusted member of the Criminal Law team, having first joined Armstrong Legal over five years...

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