You may be held in custody (for example a prison, youth detention centre or a police watch-house) if:
- You are arrested for questioning
- You are arrested and charged with a criminal offence and the police do not give you watch-house bail before you go to Court the first time
- You have been to Court, but you have put off your matter so you are on remand, and the Court does not give you bail
- You have been convicted but you are still waiting to be sentenced and the Court does not give you bail
- You are serving a sentence.
There are special rules for people under 17 being held in custody.
You still have basic rights while you are being held in custody.
How long will I be in jail?
If you are on remand, or arrested and not given bail, you will stay in jail until your next Court date and then you can apply to the Court for bail.
If you have been convicted and sentenced to a period of imprisonment (a jail sentence) the Court will say how long you have to stay in jail.
You might not have to stay in prison for your entire sentence. You can get advice from the Prisoners’ Legal Service about how your sentence is calculated and whether you are eligible for parole and early release.
Young people in custody
If you are under 17, you will be sent to a youth detention centre where young people are detained.
You will be automatically moved to an adult prison if:
- You are over 17 when sentenced for an offence you committed when you were under 17 and you are sentenced to more than 6 months in custody, or
- you turn 17 while serving a sentence in detention and you have 6 months or more left to serve in custody.
You will be given written notice of the transfer stating the date you are to be moved. You cannot appeal a decision to be moved to an adult prison.
You may not have to stay in prison for your entire sentence. You may be released on parole after you serve part of your sentence. If you are released on parole, Queensland Corrective Services will supervise you until the end of your sentence and you must meet certain conditions, such as:
- not breaking the law.
- receiving visits from a Corrective Services officer.
- telling Corrective Services within 48 hours if you change address.
- not leaving Queensland without permission.
- being tested for drugs and alcohol.
- attending courses, programs, meetings and counselling.
If you breach your parole conditions your parole may be suspended, amended or cancelled.
Suspending your parole
Your parole may be suspended if:
- you have breached a parole condition.
- You have been charged with a new offence.
- there is an unacceptable risk of you committing a new offence.
- there is a serious and immediate risk of you harming someone.
- You are preparing to leave Queensland without permission.
If you breach a parole condition (eg by not reporting or returning a positive urine test), the Community Corrections office can suspend your parole for 28 days initially. This means you will be sent back to jail.
After suspending the parole Order, the community corrections office sends a report to the parole board, which must decide whether to:
- suspend the parole Order for a further period.
- cancel the parole Order.
- let you out after 28 days (known as a 28 day sanction).
The Prisoners’ Legal Service can give you legal advice about conditions and breaches of parole.
If your parole has been suspended because you have been charged with a new offence you should get legal advice.
Even when in jail you still have basic rights.
You have the right to:
- Talk to a lawyer: You can ask to be put on the list to get legal advice from a Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ) lawyer. If you already have a lawyer representing you, they can arrange to see you and write to you, and for you to speak to them over the phone.
- Receive Centrelink payments: Some Centrelink payments will continue if you are on remand. Check with Centrelink.
- Receive visitors (who are not lawyers): You can have visits of at least 1 hour a week. You may be able to have other special visits in certain situations. Not everyone will be allowed to visit you. Someone with a criminal conviction may not be allowed. Visitors may be searched, and cannot bring in items such as cigarettes and alcohol. Each prison has its own rules.
- Send and receive letters and parcels: You can be sent letters and parcels, but the prison can read the letters and open the parcels. They may not let you have them if they think they are not suitable.
- Make and receive phone calls: You can pay to make calls to people, but the prison records calls and can listen to them. You will usually have to get permission to put a person on your call list. People are not allowed to ring you unless there is a family crisis.
You can also call some numbers for free, such as:
- Prisoners’ Legal Service.
- Legal Aid Queensland.
The prison does not listen to these types of calls.
- Have a leave of absence: You may be allowed to leave the prison for a period of time to work, study, see a doctor or dentist, or for other compassionate reasons.
- Make a complaint: You can make a complaint in writing or see the official visitor.
- Sue for damages: You can sue for damages while in jail if your sentence is less than 3 years in jail (if it is more than 3 years, you will need the Public Trustee to agree).
- Receive medical care: You can ask to see a doctor at the prison if you need medical treatment. You can also apply to see a private doctor, but conditions apply and you must pay for this yourself.
- Keep your infant children with you: If you are female you may be able to keep your baby with you. You will need to apply to the prison.
- Vote: If you are in jail, you can stay on the electoral roll or apply to enrol (with some exceptions). You cannot vote in State and local government elections if you have been convicted and are serving a sentence of imprisonment. If you are serving a full time jail sentence of less than 3 years, you can vote in federal elections, but if your sentence is 3 years or more you cannot vote in federal elections.
- Change your name: If you want to change your name, you must get the written approval of the Chief Executive (Corrective Services) before applying to change your name. If you do not, this is a criminal offence.
- Request a transfer: You can apply to be moved to another prison in Queensland or in another State.
Medical treatment in prison
If you need medical treatment, you can ask the unit officer at the prison to put you on a list to see a doctor. If you are not seen by a doctor, you can write a letter to the prison’s general manager using the blue envelopes available at the prison.
If you are still not seen by a doctor, get legal advice from Prisoners’ Legal Service.
For complaints about health care treatment, contact the Health Ombudsman.
Disclaimer: The material presented on this website is an information source only. The information on this website is written for people resident in, or affected by the laws of Queensland, Australia only. Links to other sites from this website are provided for the users’ convenience. The LGBTI Legal Service does not endorse these sites and is not responsible for the information on these sites or the use made of this information. If you have a specific legal problem, you should consult a professional legal advisor.