The type and amount of property and clothing prisoners are allowed to keep varies from prison to prison.
For details, see 'property and money' under visitor information for individual prisons.
What prisoners can keep while they are in prison
Prisoners are allowed to keep some personal effects in their cells. Each prisoner has a cell property allowance that is calculated with a points system. Excess items of authorised property may be stored for the prisoner. All items are recorded with as much identifying detail as possible including the condition of items and any make, model or serial numbers. The prisoner is asked to sign that these details have been recorded correctly.
Prisons endeavour to ensure that all property held on behalf of prisoners is safely stored, however prisoners are encouraged to send valuable property out of the prison. Valuables including jewellery, birth certificates and credit cards are stored in the prison safe.
Prisoners may apply to retrieve items from stored property, provided they do not then exceed their total cell property allowance. Prisoners can also request that items in storage be given to a visitor, disposed of or destroyed.
Prohibited items and unauthorised property (contraband)
Some property items may be prohibited or controlled. Prohibited items vary
depending on whether the prison is maximum, medium or minimum security.
Restricted and controlled items include:
- drugs and drug paraphernalia
- mobile phones
Prisoners are given time to make arrangements for the disposal of unauthorised property. If the prisoner fails to make arrangements, the prison's general manager will destroy or dispose of the items.
It is a criminal offence to bring any form of contraband onto prison property. Visitors are advised to check restrictions with the individual prison before bringing items for a prisoner.
Personal computers in prison
A prisoner may be allowed to have a personal computer in their cell, if they:
- need to prepare for a legal case, an outstanding matter or an appeal and can demonstrate that they need a computer in order to help them prepare for their defence
- participate in an education program and can show that a computer is necessary for these studies
- have special needs and could be assisted by using a computer, for example, difficulty in writing legibly
Prisoners who can demonstrate a need for a computer must make an application to purchase a computer, be able to pay for the purchase of an approved computer and software, and abide by the rules governing computer use and restrictions on software and games.
There are very strict guidelines on what hardware and software a prisoner may access. Because technology changes very rapidly, guidelines on computer hardware and software are reviewed every six months.
Laptop computers are banned in Victorian prisons. Internet, email and social media access by prisoners is prohibited.
Publications, audio-visual material & pay television
Prisoners may only access publications or audio-visual material which is classified as unrestricted in accordance with the Commonwealth Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act 1995.
Restrictions apply to the number and type of newspapers and magazines a prisoner may have (for example, no R-rated publications). For further details of restricted materials refer to the information on specific prisons.
Where pay television is provided, the access is restricted to four channels, one of which must be a documentary and/or an educational channel. The classification of programs available must not exceed the MA rating.
Transferring between prisons
When a prisoner is transferred to another prison, their property is transported to their new location. Items will be checked off against the prisoner’s property records to ensure they arrive as recorded and in good order. The same procedures are followed to decide which possessions the prisoner may keep for their cell and which must go into storage.
When a prisoner is transferring interstate, prison managers must decide how much property can be safely and conveniently moved with the prisoner. Any excess property must be disposed of prior to transfer or it may be forwarded at the prisoner’s expense.
Discharge from prison
When a prisoner is discharged, all of their property is returned to them.
If property is left unclaimed after one month, prison management may:
- send a letter to the last known address of the owner, advising that they must claim the property within 30 days or it will be subject to disposal
- give clothing and other items of minimal value to charity or destroy them
- register items of significant monetary value with the Deputy Commissioner, Operations, who may authorise that they be sold at public auction
Clothing and jewellery
On reception at prison, prisoners are issued with a basic clothing kit and footwear. Additional items of clothing may be issued for work, medical, sporting and recreation reasons. Prisoners are held responsible for the loss or damage of or deliberate alterations to issued clothing and deductions may be made from prisoners' money accounts to cover the cost of repairs or replacement.
Prisoners' personal clothing is stored with their personal property and returned when the prisoner is released.
Prisoners on remand are permitted to wear their own personal clothing if suitable. When their clothing is deemed unsuitable, prisoners are provided with prison-issue clothing. Remand prisoners may request prison-issue clothing.
Restrictions apply to the wearing of jewellery in prison. Prisoners may wear:
- an approved religious item, such as a necklace
- a plain, single wedding band (may be engraved or patterned, but may not contain any stone inserts)
Jewellery which is not approved is stored securely with the prisoners' property and returned to the prisoner on release.