It’s okay to feel nervous or scared about visiting a prison. The security processes can be daunting in the beginning, but they are in place to ensure that visitors, staff and prisoners are safe.
Staff are there to help visitors through the process, and are happy to answer any questions. The most important things someone visiting can do is come prepared, and be honest.
Applying to visit
Read more about the process for Children Visiting Prisons.
Visitors to prison must apply to be an approved visitor of a prisoner. This includes all children under 16. People who want to visit first fill out an application form, which is followed by security checks.
The forms are not available online, because it’s up to the person in prison to decide who they want to visit them. The person in prison arranges to send the application form to anyone they want to visit or, if the visitor is aged under 16, the form goes to the child's guardian.
Completing the application form
Every person aged 16 or over must complete an application form in order to apply to visit the prison.
The application form asks for information such as name, date of birth, and criminal history and a copy of identification, this could be:
- driver licence
- SuperGold card
- 18+ card
- student ID card
- bank card with photo.
The completed application form is then sent back to the prison.
Prison staff will assess the application form and make a recommendation to the prison manager about the application.
If an application is approved the approval letter must be shown at the prison visit.
If an application is declined a deny approval notification is sent – this prevents the applicant from entering the prison for a set period of time. Deny approval notification can be appealed – the details of how to appeal are included when the deny approval notification is sent.
Booking a visit
Once a visitor receives their approval letter, they can book a visit. Visitors call the prison, give the prisoner’s name and staff tell them the available visiting times.
All people in prison are entitled to at least one visit each week for a minimum duration of 30 minutes. Each prison determines how many visits a prisoner can have and also how many visitors at each visit.
Visits must be booked in advance.
Visiting hours vary across all prisons, and generally depend on which unit the person is in.
In some circumstances, special visits can be arranged – for example, family visiting from overseas or the bereavement of a loved one.
Arriving at the prison
Prisons have a strict routine and it’s important to be on time.
Visitors' vehicles may be searched by staff, or a drug dog, for contraband.
If someone asks you to smuggle something into the prison for them it is important that you know that this is illegal, and you can be arrested and prosecuted for doing it. If you feel pressured or threatened and you don’t want to do it – call the prison, Police or Crimestoppers for help
Sometimes police assist Corrections staff to carry out searches, and they may also check a visitor’s driver’s licence and the warrant of fitness and registration for their vehicle. No animals are permitted at the prison – including in the prison car park.
All belongings should be secured in a vehicle. Some prisons have lockers visitors can use.
Reporting to reception
On arrival at a prison reception or gatehouse, visitors must present their identification and visitor approval letter.
Staff check the visitor’s name against the list of visitors they are expecting and give a visitor slip, sticker or wristband. Some prisons have a waiting area.
Searching and security
After checking in, visitors pass through a metal detector, or staff use a handheld scanner, to check for concealed items.
Any visitor belongings, including shoes, will be put through an x-ray machine. A dog handler and drug dog may also be used to detect any drugs. If staff have reasonable grounds to believe someone has an unauthorised item they will ask them to consent to a ‘rub down search’.
A rub down search means a search of a clothed person. A corrections officer may do any or all of the following:
- run or pat their hands over someone’s body (outside or inside clothing but not inside underclothing)
- insert their hand inside any pockets or pouches in someone’s clothing (but not underclothing)
- require someone to open their mouth; display the palms of their hands; display the soles of their feet; or lift or rub their hair.
If a visitor does not consent to the rub down search, their visit will be terminated and they may be prohibited from visiting the prison in future.
If we have reasonable grounds to believe that a visitor is carrying illegal drugs then we have the right to detain them at the prison for up to four hours so that police can investigate.
The visit may be in a visiting room with other people, or in a booth.
The prisoner is likely to be wearing orange overalls. The overalls prevent them from obtaining contraband items from a visitor and concealing it on themselves.
Staff are present in the room and monitor the visit. Visitors are allowed to give the prisoner a hug and kiss when greeting them, and before leaving.
During a booth visit there is no contact between the visitor and the prisoner. This could be for a number of reasons, for example, if the prisoner had a positive drug test result.
During the visit we expect all visitors to maintain behaviour appropriate to a family-friendly environment. A visit can be terminated if a visitor:
- behaves in a manner that is harmful, threatening, intimidating, indecent or disruptive to the security and order of the prison
- fails to comply with the Corrections Act or Corrections Regulations or a lawful order given by an officer
- refuses to let themselves or their vehicle or possessions be searched
- refuses to pass through a metal detector.