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Preparing for the possibility of going to prison can be a frightening experience. Make sure you look after the following points, they will help you to keep your life together while in prison, and to emerge in stronger physical and financial shape.
> Are you going to court for sentencing?
When going to court for sentencing, make sure you have the following with you if you can, as you may need them whilst in custody and will definitely need them when you are released.
It is a good idea to make photocopies of everything and leave the copies with someone trustworthy on the outside, just in case anything goes missing.
If you are in custody on remand and don’t have these items with you, see if anyone you know will be coming to court to support you and if so, ask them to bring these things with them. If you are sentenced to time in prison, they will then be able to hand them to your solicitor to pass on to you.
Important paperwork often includes:
- Bank account details, ATM card and Centrelink number
- Phone/address book with relevant phone numbers, such as your lawyer and family members
- Enough money to make phone calls a for the next ten days.
- Bring the names and phone numbers of your doctors and any prescribed medication you need to take. Bring it in its original packaging with the prescribing doctor’s name and dosage instructions on it and bring your Medicare card with you
- Bring any other important paperwork such as receipts for storage, legal information, etc.
- Take your ID in with you (driver’s licence, birth certificate etc.)
- Also – bring a warm jacket – you may have to wait in the cells before being taken to prison and they can be very cold. When you arrive at prison, your clothes and other belongings will be stored in a box and returned to you when you are released
> What will you do about your house?
Department of Housing – To avoid debt or losing your house, tell the Department of Housing what is happening and ask what options you have – 24-hr/7-day phone 1800 422 322. You may be able to pay reduced rent for a short time, or be priority listed when you are released from prison.
Community housing – If you are going into prison, you can apply to retain the tenancy for up to six months. However, if Family and Community Services (FACS) is reasonably satisfied that the imprisonment will be in excess of six months, FACS can ask you to relinquish the tenancy immediately. FACS will consider each case on its merits. However, if the reason for imprisonment is related to a breach of the tenancy agreement, FACS will take action to terminate the tenancy. If you have not been released from prison at the end of six months, FACS will consider an application for recognition as a tenant from a remaining household member, or terminate the tenancy.
Private Rental – If you rent privately, tell your landlord or real estate agent about your circumstances. If you end the lease, you can try to get your bond back.
If you’re buying your home – Talk to your bank about changes to your home loan repayments.
> Do you have children?
If you have children, it is helpful to think about these things:
Talk to Centrelink about what kind of Family Assistance is available to the person who will be caring for your children: www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/themes/families or call 136 150
Will your children have to move house or change schools? Do you want to discuss the situation with your child’s teacher? Call the school and ask to speak to your child’s teacher to let them know what is happening. Your child may need extra support and understanding at this time of upheaval and it is helpful for their teacher to know that it may be affect their school-work or behaviour.
What are you going to tell your children? SHINE for Kids is an organisation that supports children with a parent in prison and can help you think about how to talk to them about what is happening in an honest and sensitive way that they will find most helpful and least distressing.
Do you want your children to visit you while in prison? Maintaining contact with your children can help them to feel more secure and cope better with having a parent in prison. You can talk to CRC’s Family Worker or Shine for Kids about what would work best for your family.
> Drugs & your health
You can ask to be put on a Methadone/Buprenorphine program in prison. If you are already on a program, inform staff as soon as you arrive so your dosing can continue in prison.
If you’re on any medication, talk to your doctor and ask them for a letter to prison health staff, outlining your treatment and why it needs to be continued in custody.
If you are being held in the cells and need to see a doctor for a physical or mental health problem, talk to a staff member as soon as possible.
> How to deal with Centrelink
You will not be eligible for any Centrelink payment while in prison. You must advise Centrelink what is happening to avoid having to pay them back later. Call them on 132 307.
Be aware that any Centrepay deductions will stop (e.g. rent, bills) and you will need to make other arrangements for these payments.
> Utilities (gas, electricity, telephone, internet)
> Are you studying?
> How to look after your furniture & household goods
If you’re going to be away for a long time and have nowhere to store your belongings, it might be better to sell your furniture. Otherwise, think about where you are going to store it – and if it is going to be safe there. Make a list of what you own and who is storing it. Prisoners Aid NSW can store some goods for prisoners; they can be contacted to discuss this on 0412 430 214 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have goods on hire purchase, get in contact with the company and discuss your options.
> What will you do about vehicles?
You will need to think about who will look after your vehicle, where will it be stored, who will be liable for any fines that are incurred by someone else whilst you are away and whose name will it be registered in? If you may be in prison for some time, it can be better to sell your car.