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Prisons & Community Offender Management

Corrective Services NSW

  • Manages publicly operated prisons and prisoners in NSW (also see Prisoners in NSW).
  • Manages people under the supervision of Community Offender Services (formerly known as Probation and Parole). Community Offender Services are usually the point of contact between a drug and alcohol service and Corrective Services.
  • Provides a number of drug and alcohol rehabilitation program opportunities for prisoners. See Programs in Prison below for more information.

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Privately operated prisons in NSW

  • Junee Correctional Centre and Parklea Correctional Centre are at present the only privately operated prisons in NSW. The management of prisoners at these centres is the responsibility of GEO Group, a private security firm.
  • Therapeutic programs do not differ between private and public prisons but work opportunities may differ.

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What happens in Prison?


On first arriving at prison, all prisoners go through a routine set of reception processes.

  • There are reception centres attached to prisons around the state but most people in Sydney will go to the Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre (MRRC) located at Silverwater for men or Silverwater Women's Correctional Centre.
  • Prisoners may have limited phone access during the reception process.
  • Prisoners will be fingerprinted and photographed and a strip search will be conducted.
  • All clothing and personal belongings will be taken and stored, and the prisoner will be given prison 'greens' (clothing) and basic toiletries.

MIN (Master Index Number)

  • Each prisoner will be given a six digit Master Index Number commonly referred to as a MIN number. This number will remain a prisoner's identification number any time they are in a Correctional Centre.

Screening for Health and other Issues

  • All prisoners will undergo a screening process by Justice Health nursing staff, psychologists and welfare at reception. Screening may not always occur immediately at reception depending on the time of day that a prisoner arrives at a reception centre. For example prisoners that arrive after hours or on the weekend may have to wait until staff are available to be screened.
  • Screening is an opportunity to raise any health or medication concerns, alcohol and drug withdrawal issues and mental health issues.
  • Prisoners are able to make urgent calls (e.g. to family re children) at reception. Welfare staff can also advise landlords, employers and other nominated people to notify them of a person's incarceration.

Settling in

  • Once a prisoner has been through the reception process, they can have visits, send letters, and have better (though limited) phone access.
  • It can take up to seven days to set up a phone card account. Once established, a prisoner needs to nominate who can be on their phone list dependent on approval by Corrective Services NSW. Incoming calls are not permitted.
  • All items taken into a prison by visitors will be checked by officers. Certain items are restricted.
  • A limited amount of money can be put into a prisoner's prison bank account; presently this amount is set at a maximum of $100. It may take several days to set up a bank account. Any money a person has when they enter prison will be placed into this account. A prisoner can use this money to pay for phone calls, stamped envelopes, extra food and personal items.
  • Throughout their time in prison, a prisoner will undergo three musters (roll calls) per day and are subjected to random cell searches and urine testing for drug use.

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Programs in prison

Each correctional centre runs different drug and alcohol programs, so the programs a prisoner can access will depend on a number of operational considerations.

  • The security classification of a prisoner will determine which correctional centre they are placed at and what programs may be available for a person to access. Each facility has differing levels of prisoner classification.
  • Rehabilitation programs are usually available only for longer-term prisoners (6 months plus) and are not available in all prisons. People on remand cannot access any programs.
  • The availability of drug and alcohol programs and workers differs across the 32 adult prisons in NSW. Caseloads for welfare and drug and alcohol workers are also very high with up to 150 inmates, making it impossible to see everyone in a short space of time.
  • With more than 30,000 'receptions' (people being received into prison) in the corrective services system each year waiting lists for programs can be extremely long and prisoners may find themselves moved to a new prison before their name comes up or moved before the completion of a program.
  • Corrective Services NSW run programs such as the SMART program for men and the POISE program for women.

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Justice Health NSW

Justice Health is a statutory Health Corporation funded by NSW Health. It provides health care to people in the adult and juvenile correctional system, to those in courts and police cells, and to those within the NSW forensic mental health system and in the community.

Justice Health works independently from, but closely with, a range of organisations including NSW Health, Corrective Services NSW, NSW Juvenile Justice and a range of community based services and groups.

As well as providing primary health care services in the NSW criminal justice system - Justice Health works in collaboration with Corrective Services NSW in providing drug and alcohol services in correctional facilities.

Drug and alcohol services provided by Justice Health include:

  • Risk assessment and management of intoxication and withdrawal from alcohol and/or drugs for all clients on entry into the custodial system.
  • Provision and management of pharmacotherapy treatment programs such as methadone, naltrexone and buprenorphine.
  • Post release care arrangements for any client on a longer-term pharmacotherapy to ensure continuity of care.

In addition, there are specific Justice Health programs provided through:

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The Connections Program

The Connections Program operates in all adult Correctional Centre's in NSW. It is a voluntary program and aims to improve continuity of care for clients with histories of problematic drug use who are being released into the community. A comprehensive assessment is completed and a post release plan is developed with clients prior to their release. Clinical Support Workers follow up with patients in the community for 4 weeks normally.

Referrals can be made by anyone up to four weeks prior to the expected release date of a prisoner by calling (02) 9811 010. The eligibility criteria include individuals in prison in NSW who:

  • Are currently on or have stopped opioid substitution programs in the six months prior to release.
  • Are pregnant, or who have given birth while in prison or in the six months before entering custody (for those who have served 12 months or less) and have a drug problem.
  • Have served a custodial sentence of four years or longer who have a history of drug problems.
  • Have served more than five custodial sentences related to problematic drug use.
  • Have complex medical concerns and have a history of problematic drug use.

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The Compulsory Drug Treatment Program

The Compulsory Drug Treatment Program (CDTP) is an interagency abstinence based program that commenced within the Parklea Correctional Centre in 2006. This program targets up to 100 male offenders with long term drug dependence who have committed multiple offences over a long period to support their addiction. The program operates through the Drug Court based at Parramatta in NSW. The program is abstinence based.

For clients to be eligible for this court mandated program the client must:

  • Have long term illicit drug dependency and have committed an offence which in the opinion of the Drug Court was related to dependency and the person's associated lifestyle.
  • Have been convicted of at least two other offences in the past five years.
  • Have been sentenced to full time imprisonment for their current offence and have at least 18 months to three years non parole left to serve at the time the Drug Court makes the order.
  • Have not been convicted at any time of murder, manslaughter, sexual assault, any firearms offence, commercial drug trafficking or any offence in the opinion of the Drug Court that involves serious violence.
  • Not have a serious or violent mental illness that could prevent or restrict the person's active participation in the program.

For more information on the CDTP click here to download the CDTP evaluation report produced by NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

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What Happens when a Person is released from Prison?

Released from Court

Not everyone is released directly from prison. Many people are released from court. People can be released in 'greens' (their prison clothes) with no belongings, no money, no identification and nothing in place for their release. Previous accommodation might be lost and there may be no arrangements in place for any medication or treatment a person may be receiving (including opioid treatment programs such as methadone). If a person is released from court, they will often need emergency assistance for basic goods such as shelter, food, clothing and transport costs.

Released from a Correctional Centre

During a person's incarceration there are resources available to identify and address their needs at different stages of their incarceration. However, due to the high ratio of program staff to prisoners (frequently as high as 1:150), it is not uncommon that prisoners do not have an opportunity to see welfare staff prior to their release. Also, if a person was only in custody briefly, chances are they may not have had any contact with a Welfare Officer in prison and referrals for their support needs won't have been made. As a result some prisoners may be released with unmet needs including housing, financial support, debt, family issues, legal issues, alcohol and drug issues and mental health issues.

See About Criminal Justice Clients

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Community Offender Services - The link between prison and the community

Community Offender Services (COS) is the main contact Corrective Services NSW provides between prisons and outside services. COS was formerly known as Probation and Parole.

What does COS do?

COS is primarily responsible for:

  • Court advice and pre-release reports - Information for court about a person's background, education, employment and any issues contributing to the offence, in the form of a written report. Reports may be requested by the court pre-sentence outlining the person's suitability for community-based or prison sentences.
  • Probation supervision - A person may be placed on probation as a condition of a good behaviour bond. This requires the COS officer to have regular contact with them and any significant others both at an office and in the person's home to monitor compliance.
  • Parole supervision - People released to parole supervision are subject to conditions imposed by the State Parole Authority or other releasing bodies. Conditions may include counselling for drug or alcohol misuse, a requirement to attend psychiatric treatment or group work programs, or residential restrictions. Failure to abide by the conditions may result in return to prison.
  • Community service orders - People may be sentenced to perform unpaid work in the community, known as a community service order. People are screened for appropriate community placement and are supervised for the duration of their hours. Through community service orders COS supervises approximately 4,600 people, who perform around $12 million worth of unpaid community work for approximately 1,600 non-profit organisations.

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A selection of the references used in No Bars along with other related publications can be found on the Research And Publications page.

  1. NSW Department of Corrective Services (2009), Facts & Figures: Corporate Research, Evaluation & Statistics, 9th Edition.

There are over 10,000 people in jail in NSW on any given day.

Approximately 80% of prisoners connect their AOD dependence to their offending behaviour and imprisonment.

60 - 80% of this group were intoxicated at the time of committing their offence.