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Prison facilities

Information about the different kinds of activities, facilities, equipment and recreation that is available in prisons.

What are prison facilities?

Prison facilities are the equipment that is made available to prisoners during their leisure and study time. Use of this equipment is treated as a privilege and so use may be temporarily restricted as part of the disciplinary procedures.

There are also facilities that are privately owned by prisoners or leased from the prison such as computers (used in cells), computer games and consoles, Pay TV, DVDs and videos. Use of these items is also considered a privilege and their use is strictly monitored. These facilities are not available to all prisoners.

Types of facilities

Facilities available in each prison will vary and may include:

  • a prison library
  • shared computers
  • spiritual facilities
  • recreational and sporting facilities such as a gym.

The use of private facilities includes:

  • computers in prisoners' cells
  • computer games and consoles
  • Pay TV and DVDs.

Eligibility

The right to access facilities is discretionary, however s. 47 (1)(a) of the Corrections Act 1986 (Vic) gives prisoners the right to be in the open air for at least an hour each day if not engaged in outdoor work, weather permitting.

High security or management unit prisoners

Prisons use an incentive-based management system for prisoners who are in high security and management units. This management system determines the level of access that prisoners have to some programs and the privileges that are available.

High security or management prisoners must be given their daily hour in the sunshine. They must also be treated in accordance with the Human Rights Charter. These prisoners are to be given:

  • one hour out of their cells
  • one cubicle visit each week
  • access to reading materials
  • essential food items
  • professional visits
  • access to medical services
  • access to education (unless their offence or security issue means that they cannot safely have access).

Classification of high security prisoners

High security and management unit prisoners are classified in 5 different regimes in order of the severity of their treatment. The most restrictive is level 1 and the least restrictive is level 5:

  • Level 1. loss of privileges
  • Level 2. initial separation
  • Level 3. incentive regime 1
  • Level 4. incentive regime 2
  • Level 5. incentive regime 3

Loss of privileges

Loss of privileges happens when a prisoner has been fomally disciplined at a Disciplinary hearing. The authorised person who hears the dispute can withdraw one or more privileges for up to 30 days.

See Disciplinary hearings—How prisoners are disciplined.

The system is supposed to encourage prisoners to behave by allowing them to move to less restrictive regimes as their behaviour improves. For example, prisoners are allowed more phone calls each time they move from one regime to another. Only those who are in regimes 2 and 3 are allowed to access electronic games or to have computers in their cells. The amount of property that they are allowed to accumulate also increases.

See Schedule PM 5.1 ‘Incentive-based regimes’ in Part 3—Corrections, Prisons & Parole—Sentence Management Manual(opens in a new window) for a list of privileges in the different regimes.

Intermediate regime prisoners

These prisoners have been identified as needing more intensive supervision than mainstream prisoners. The Sentence Management Panel has to give approval before a prisoner can be placed in this regime. Prisoners will generally be placed in this regime after this level of supervision has been recommended by the Case Management Review Committee. A prisoner in this category must have a review each month.

Immediate regime prisoners have fewer privileges than mainstream prisoners, but the restrictions are more generous than for prisoners in maximum security or management units.

What might cause a prisoner to be placed in this regime?

A prisoner may be placed in this regime if they refuse to comply with the expected behaviour standards. This could include:

  • dismissal from work
  • refusing to work
  • being transferred from another prison for inappropriate behaviour.

Prisoners may also be placed in this regime if they have been moved out of a more restrictive regime.

Restrictions

Prisoners who are in the intermediate regime are:

  • permitted out of their cell for only up to 6 hours each day
  • not allowed to use electronic games or other software
  • not allowed to use hobby activities and items.

See PM6 ‘Intermediate regimes’ in Part 3—Corrections, Prisons & Parole—Sentence Management Manual(opens in a new window).

Pay TV and Access to DVDs

Prisoners are allowed to access this passive recreational electronic material only if it can be demonstrated that its use will not adversely affect their sentence plan or rehabilitation. This equipment will only be provided if the Prison Governor decides that there is sufficient budget for this.

Prisoners are permitted to have DVDs as part of their personal property if the DVDs are generally available in newsagents, shops and video stores. They must be classified as MA, M, PG or G. They must not display any full nudity.

Commercial TV

Prisoners have access to commercial TV and this is not restricted unless the staff believe it is having a detrimental effect on the prisoner’s progress and rehabilitation.

Restricted access for sex offenders

Convicted sex offenders must not watch programs that show scenes of rape or sexual violence. Although commercial TV is not restricted, staff may order the TV to be turned off if sex offenders are watching children’s programs.

Prisoners are not allowed to compile a video or DVD library unless they are for an educational purpose.

See DCI 4.16—Prisoner access to Videotapes, DVDs and Pay TV in Deputy Commissioner's Instructions.

Library

Access to on-site libraries are also made available. These should be staffed by a person who is skilled in library functions, (like a librarian).

How to challenge restricted access to facilities

Prisoners who have their access to facilities restricted can:

  • write to the general manager (governor) of the prison giving the reasons that they believe that the access restriction is not appropriate
  • speak to their case manager and ask for a review of their classification if their circumstances change
  • complain to the Victorian Ombudsman
  • seek judicial review of the administrative decision.

More information

Legislation

Corrections Act 1986 (Vic)

  • s. 47(1)(a)—prisoner's right to spend time in the open air
  • s. 47(1)(o)—the right to take part in educational programs in the prison

See Corrections Act 1986 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Corrections Regulations 2019 (Vic)

  • r. 33—prisoner privileges

See Corrections Regulations 2019 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

References

Corrections Victoria

Parts 2 and 3 of Corrections Victoria's Sentence management manual have information about Incentive based regimes

  • 'PM 5.1—Incentive-based regimes’
  • 'PM 6—Intermediate regimes'

See Part 3 Corrections, Prisons & Parole—Sentence Management Manual(opens in a new window).

Deputy Commissioner’s Instructions

The Deputy Commissioner's Instructions (DCIs) set out detailed guidelines for the management and operation of public prisons and prisoners in Victoria. Private prisons must follow a similar set of Operating Procedures, which, like the Deputy Commissioner's Instructions, put into practice the Standards and Commissioner's Requirements to ensure a consistent system across the entire Victorian Prison network.

The following Deputy Commissioner's Instructions may be relevant:

  • DCI 4.16—Prisoner access to videotapes, DVDs and Pay TV
  • DCI 3.06—Fitness, sport and recreation

See Classification of prisoners—References—Deputy Commissioner's Instructions.

Updated