Prisoner's rights

Although as a sentenced prisoner you may lose your freedom, you still have basic rights and entitlements.

Irrespective of your security classification you will be able to:

  • talk to a lawyer—either a Legal Aid Queensland lawyer or your own
  • make complaints
  • sue for damages
  • receive medical care
  • vote in federal elections if your sentence is 3 years or less
  • apply to transfer to another jail, including interstate.

Depending on your security classification and where you’re jailed, you may also be able to:

  • receive some Centrelink payments. You can receive any residual amount owing to you before you go to jail, a crisis payment on discharge and, if you are receiving a parenting payment and have your child with you in jail, you will continue to receive this payment.
  • have visitors (although there are rules on who can visit you). You are entitled to one non-contact visit per week and, if approved, one contact visit per week. You may also be able to have other special visits.
  • send and receive letters although the prison will check them first
  • receive parcels if previously approved by prison authorities—but these will be checked
  • make telephone calls—although you can only have a maximum of 10 approved numbers on your account.  All calls except legal calls are monitored
  • have leave of absence (if you are classified low risk) to perform community service work, attend study (if approved) or for compassionate reasons where it is deemed appropriate and operationally viable
  • keep your infant children—if you are female you may be able to keep your baby with you; however, there is an assessment process and the best interests of the child are always prioritised.

Find out more about daily life in prison, including rules around visitors, mail and telephone calls.

Right to information

Under the Right to Information Act 2009 and Information Privacy Act 2009, you have the right to:

  • apply for access to most government documents, including documents held in Corrective Services files, although you may not be given access to all information
  • have incorrect personal information on government files corrected
  • access to your medical records
  • access to legal aid via Legal Aid Queensland or Prisoners Legal Service.

Right to vote

Prisoners who have been sentenced to a jail term of less than 3 years are allowed to vote in Queensland state and local elections, as well as Australian federal elections and referendums.

You may vote by post or a mobile voting team may visit your prison in the 2 weeks before the election day.

Currently prisoners who’ve been sentenced to 3 years or more in jail do not have the right to vote; however, you can remain on the electoral roll to make it easy for you to vote when you are released from prison.

Right to legal help

If you’re in jail and need legal advice, Legal Aid Queensland’s prison legal advice lawyers can help you over the phone, via videoconference, or they can meet with you in prison.

Find out more about getting legal help in prison.

Right to medical attention

You can ask to see a doctor at the prison if you need. You can also apply to see private doctors, but conditions apply to this request and you must pay for this yourself.

If you have not been able to see a doctor or nursing staff at the prison’s Health Centre, you can make a request in writing to the General Manager of the prison using the blue envelopes available to prisoners.

You may need to get legal advice if you are still not seen. The Prisoners' Legal Service or Legal Aid Queensland may be able to assist you.

Right to make a complaint

Complaints about discrimination

You must first go through the internal prison complaint processes if you wish to complain that corrective services management has discriminated against you.

If this doesn’t resolve your complaint you can take your complaint to the Queensland Human Rights Commission.

1. Make your complaint in writing to the General Manager of the prison where you are being held. The complaint will be investigated and resolved within 4 months and a written response provided to you.

2. If you’re unhappy with the response or you didn’t receive one, make a complaint in writing to the Official Visitor coordinator. Once the Official Visitor advises in writing that they’ve finished dealing with your complaint (or if you don’t get a response) you can then take the matter to the Queensland Human Rights Commission.

You can get more information about the complaints process from prison staff.

Complaints about health

You can complain about health services in Queensland, and any aspect of your healthcare to the Office of the Health Ombudsman.

Right to transfer

You have the right to request a transfer to another prison in Queensland or another state.

The prison service will decide whether your transfer should be granted. They will consider:

  • your welfare, particularly if you would benefit from being moved to a jail nearer your family
  • whether you have outstanding offences in another state that could be dealt with if you are transferred
  • your behaviour during your stay in prison—a history of bad behaviour may prevent your transfer
  • your safety—if you have given evidence against other prisoners and can no longer be held safely where you are
  • whether your transfer may cause distress to victims.

More information

  • Prisoners’ Legal Service provides free legal advice to Queensland prisoners and their families on matters relating to imprisonment.
  • Read about Human rights and prisons including the Queensland, Australian and international laws regarding the rights of people in custody.