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  • 09 Criminal Offences and Penalties
  • Prison and Prisoners
  • Prisoners and People in Custody
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Prisoners and People in Custody

Classification of Prisoners

The Director of Corrective Services to establish a Classification Committee for the purpose of classifying prisoners. Prisoners are classified according to their age, character, offence, previous history and sentence.

The major principle when classifying inmates is that they be placed on the lowest level of security for which they qualify, taking into account the needs of the individual inmate while at the same time ensuring their safe custody. Most inmates are initially classified as maximum security on entry into custody. Some, such as fine defaulters, who are obviously not a security risk can be classified medium or minimum. Inmates are reclassified as soon as practicable after being sentenced when they may be reduced to a lower level of security or remain at maximum. They are reconsidered at intervals of approximately 6 months or earlier on application.

Classification Committee

The Classification Committee will decide on the prisoners classification. There are three levels of security. The following are the minimum standards of management which apply to each level. In many circumstances the degree of supervision and control will be higher than that set out below.


Inmates in this category are subject to high levels of supervision in an environment which provides for direct and coercive intervention, if required, to maintain safety, security and good order. They are detained within substantial barriers except when under escort by two officers.


Inmates in this category are locked in cells at night. During the day when on prison property, they must be sighted by an officer at intervals not exceeding 30 minutes. When off the property they must be under ‘line of sight’ supervision.


Inmates in this category are locked in cells at night. During the day they are required to be subject to occasional supervision and are required to work in specific locations. They are required to report to a designated place at designated times.

Categories of People in Custody


A detainee is a person detained in lawful custody other than under a sentence of imprisonment, irrespective of the cause of imprisonment. Detainees come within a range of categories.

Persons Arrested

Once arrested, a person can be held in custody. In Tasmania, police officers usually have the right to grant bail to a person without having to bring such person before a justice of the peace or a magistrate. In relatively minor cases, this is usually done. However, in more serious cases, and where there has been an arrest, or an arrest on warrant, the police will not themselves grant bail. In such cases they are required to bring the person before a Magistrates Court “as soon as practicable” (s4Criminal Law (Detention and Interrogation) Act 1995 (Tas)).

During this period, before either police bail, or the court appearance, a person is held in custody (usually at the police station cells) as a detainee. Provision is made for a Magistrates Court to be held on a weekend in the major centres, to deal with detainees, though the court can sit at any time if need be.

Persons Remanded in Custody Pending Trial

Persons are quite often refused bail during the period awaiting trial. Persons on very serious offences such as murder fall into this category. Others may be refused bail because they have failed to turn up at court to answer their bail on a previous occasion, breached their bail conditions or are believed to be likely to re-offend while on bail. Such persons are required to appear before the court at least once every 28 days (ss58(2) & 74B(2)Justices Act 1959 (Tas)).

Persons Remanded Pending Sentence

In many instances, once a person has been convicted, the court may remand a person in custody whilst the question of penalty is considered, and where necessary, probation or psychiatric reports are obtained. The period is usually for several weeks. During that period, a person is held on remand as a detainee.

Persons Subject to Extradition or Deportation

Persons can be detained while awaiting proceedings for their extradition to another state or a foreign country to answer to charges there, or for their deportation if they are illegally in Australia.

Mentally Ill Prisoners

Persons found unfit (by reason of a mental condition) to plead, or who have been found not guilty by reason of a mental disorder, are detained (within Wilfred Lopes Centre) pending a decision of the Attorney-General as to any transfer to another institution, or to continued detention within the prison complex. The Wilfred Lopes Centre and the Women’s Prison are Special Institutions under the Mental Health Act 2013 (Tas).


Under the Youth Justice Act 1997 (Tas) persons under the age of 18 can be detained in prison, but usually are remanded into the care of the Director of the Department of Communities, and kept at ‘Ashley’, an institution operated by the Department near Deloraine. A person under 18 can only be detained in an adult prison with a special court order on the grounds of exceptional security requirements.

Provision is made under the Corrections Act 1997 (Tas) (s25) to allow a prisoner’s child to live with the prisoner in prison provided it is in the best interest of the child and it does not pose a risk to the child or security of the prison. This rarely occurs in practice.

The current government intends to close Ashley Youth Detention Centre and replace it with two new sites, which will cater to a therapeutic model of rehabilitation.


Male detainees are kept in the Hobart Remand Centre, which is a separate complex next to the Magistrates Court in Liverpool Street Hobart, unless the detainee requests to be transferred to Risdon. There are no separate facilities for detainees within the Women’s Prison because of the small number involved.

A detainee is not required to wear prison clothing unless they desire to do so. A detainee is not required to work but may request to be so permitted. In such a case the person shall wear prison clothing (s29(d)) which is suitable for the climate and work undertaken. They are then entitled to receive earnings for work and to participate in prison programs. A detainee may be allowed to spend money belonging to them for purposes approved by the prison.


A prisoner is a person detained in lawful custody under a sentence of imprisonment. In Tasmania, most persons under detention are prisoners.

Prison and Mental Disorders

Where a jury has found a person to be incapable of standing trial, or has acquitted a person on the ground of insanity, the trial judge shall order that the person is liable to supervision under Part 4 of the Criminal Justice (Mental Impairment) Act 1999 (Tas) (s21). The person then becomes subject to the provisions of the Mental Health Act 1996 (Tas)  and a review of any period of detention is the responsibility of the Forensic Mental Health Review Tribunal.

In most cases, males are detained in the prison hospital in the Risdon maximum security facility, and women in the women’s prison. The release or transfer is the responsibility of the ‘controlling authority’.

Women in Prison

The number of inmates within the women’s prison varies on average between five and 40. Because of the smaller number of persons involved, the procedures – although similar to the male prison – are more relaxed and greater scope is given to individuality, especially in the areas of dress, movement and contact visits. However the downside is that the women’s prison is only a fraction the size of the men’s prison and women are much more constricted in terms of exercise and work.

Page last updated 06/03/2024

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