A person in prison is subject to the same legal requirements as anyone else in Tasmania. A crime or offence committed inside a prison is a crime punishable under the same laws as apply outside. Of course it is not so easy for a prisoner to take action when they are the victim. In addition, however, prisoners and detainees are subject to special sets of rules.
The Director can reduce the sentence of a prisoner by one third so long as this does not reduce the sentence to less than three months. Remission is granted almost as a matter of course. Prisons throughout the world use the remission system as a method of maintaining order and discipline within their systems. Remissions are not the product of a concern for prisoners, but a carrot and stick method of control. Because of this, it is important to remember that what is regarded as cheekiness, high spirits, dumb insolence on the outside can have an effect on a prisoner’s release date.
A record is kept of ‘misconduct’ of each prisoner and detainee, and the contents of that record must be considered when computing the amount of remission to be granted to that person. However, as a matter of practice, a reduction of remission is reserved for only the most serious offences and is used sparingly.
There is a requirement that orders be obeyed promptly. In the event that a person believes that a particular order given by a prison officer is wrong or unfair, that person is required to obey the order, and only afterwards may complain to the Manager about that order.
Offences committed in prison
These are contained in Schedule 1 of the Corrections Act, and are made pursuant to section 58 of the Act. They are far reaching in extent. Some examples of offences include mutiny, being idle or negligent at work, cursing, feigning illness and maiming, injuring or tattooing oneself or another.
Standing Orders and Rules
The Director has the power to issue standing orders (s6(3)) and they can be varied whenever desired. It is an offence to contravene these orders.
Standing orders apply essentially to staff.
Standard Operating Procedures (formerly Prison Rules)
These procedures cover the general routine of prison life. They provide for duties on getting up in the morning, cleaning duties, prohibition about entry of cells, mustering, times of silence, obedience to orders and so on.
A prisoner or detainee must be searched on admission and immediately before discharge. They may be searched at any other time in any manner the officer in charge considers necessary. Cells are required to be searched before the person is accommodated in that cell, and at such other times, as the General Manager considers necessary. Any unauthorised article found during the search is confiscated.
Penalties for Prison Offences
The penalties that may be imposed on a prisoner or detainee are set out in section 61. They include:
- Loss of privileges for not exceeding 90 days in the case of contact visits and 30 days in any other case.
- A period of separation from other prisoners not exceeding 30 days. This will normally mean a stint in Division 8, Risdon’s punishment wing where conditions are particularly harsh.
- Deduction from prison wages or allowances to pay for any damages to property loss, or all or part of remission.
A Corrections officer may use firearms against a person escaping or attempting to escape. They are not permitted to do so unless they have reasonable grounds to believe that they could not otherwise prevent the escape.
Firearms may be used in cases involving a combined break out, or an attempt to break open a door or gate. They may also be used where violence is used against a person “if that person has reasonable grounds to believe that the other person is in danger of life or limb, or that grievous injury or harm is likely to be caused to him or her”.
A warning to stop and that a firearm will be used, must be given before the weapon can be discharged.