Going to prison

This page provides basic information for offenders going to prison in the Northern Territory (NT).

Entering prison and classification

When the prisoner arrives in prison the details of their warrant will be checked and transferred to the prison file. 

A warrant is a document from the court which has the details of the sentence the court has given them.
Their personal property will be taken from them, and they will be given prison clothes to wear.
They will also be searched, photographed and given an ID card with their classification. 


The prisoner's classification will determine which section of the prison they are taken to.
They will usually be first classified as high security, but this may change soon after they arrive. They can be reclassified during their time.
There are five classifications:

  • maximum security
  • high security
  • medium security
  • low security
  • open security.

There are different rules for each classification, and it will determine whether they are allowed to leave prison for work or be granted day leave.

What they can bring and wear

The prisoner cannot bring personal possessions into prison. 

They will be given basic goods such as toothbrushes, toothpaste soap and coffee and tea.
They will be issued with prison clothes to wear.
Hair must be kept short and tidy and beards are not usually allowed, unless there are special medical or religious reasons.
Tobacco is not allowed on the premises and is considered to be contraband.


The prisoner is allowed privileges in prison if they behave well. 

If they don’t obey the rules in prison they can have their privileges withdrawn.
These can include all or some of the following:

  • watching TV, films, audio tapes or listening to music 
  • telephone calls
  • using the library
  • taking leave.


Leave may be granted by the superintendent for funerals or a birth, medical treatment or education and training.  

Community safety is extremely important.

The prisoner will have to submit a leave request. Whether they are granted leave depends on their record, classification and behaviour.


The prisoner's classification will determine all of the following:

  • how many visits they can have
  • the type of visits
  • how long visitors can stay.

Visits are usually held in the visiting area. The prisoner will sit opposite the visitor.
The prisoner may be restricted to shorter non-contact visits that are held in another part of the prison and behind a glass partition.
Go to visiting a prisoner to find out more information about visits.

Money and buying things

Any money will be placed in a trust account. Money earned by the prisoner or sent to them will also go into their  trust account.
They can buy other items with the money earned in prison, but there is a limit to how much they can buy. 

They will be given a list of things that can be kept in their cell.
They may be allowed to buy some personal items such as a TV or radio, depending on the prison. They cannot give or swap property with other prisoners.

Making phone calls and the internet

They can make phone calls to approved phone numbers from monitored phones. 

This means prison staff can listen to the telephone call. They will have to pay to make phone calls from their trust account. 

There are some organisations they can call for free, and prison staff cannot listen to these calls.
These include all of the following: 

  • NT Legal Aid Commission
  • North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) 
  • Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service (CAALAS)
  • The Ombudsman
  • Health Complaints Commission
  • Anti-Discrimination Commission
  • Human Rights Commission
  • Reintegration After Prison Project
  • Drug Information Hotline.

Women prisoners with children

Female prisoners may be allowed to care for young children or babies while in custody if it is in the best interests of the child, and the management and security of the prison is not threatened. 

Being released from prison

Go to leaving prison and parole to find out more about what happens when a prisoner is released.

Last updated: 03 June 2015

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