This information is for those preparing for release from prison, or for those who have recently been released.
Just click on the question to see answers, information, people to call and websites to visit for help.
Day-to-day challenges can put a lot of stress on someone who has just been released. Things like finding a place to live, talking to Centrelink or getting in touch with family and friends can all be difficult. Although you may have heard that many people released from custody end up back in prison sooner or later, there are many others who succeed in making a new start. The first few weeks and months are critical. This information is here to help you through this time.
> Who can help?
If you are still in custody, it can be very difficult to organise these things yourself so it can help to ask a SAPO, case manager or Community Corrections officer to help you. It can also be helpful if you have family or friends on the outside who can help organise things.
HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
Homelessness is often the biggest worry that people have when being released from custody. A lot of people leave prison not sure of where they will live. Sometimes people need crisis accommodation (often known as ‘TA’) when they first get out. TA usually means a short period of accommodation in a hotel or a motel.
CRC staff are experienced in helping people coming out of prison to navigate TA and access homelessness services, so please call us for help on (02) 9288 8700.
> I am in prison and I don't have anywhere to live when I get out. What should I do?
> What happens if I am released from prison and I am homeless?
> I am in Temporary Accommodation. How long can I stay in temporary accommodation?
> Is it still possible to inspect a property?
> I am sleeping rough. How can I stay safe? What crisis services can help me?
CENTRELINK AND FINANCES
There have been some changes to the way Centrelink operates since COVID-19, including the amount that you get paid and what you have to do to keep getting paid.
There are a lot more people who are trying to get help due to the pandemic. This means that it can take a long time to speak to someone on the phone, or that there can be long lines at Centrelink to see someone.
It might take extra time for your payment to get sorted out. If you need a bit of extra support give CRC a call on (02) 9288 8700
> I am in prison and want to organise Centrelink before I get out.
> How can I organise payment before I get out?
> Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and ID
> What if I don't have a bank account?
> What if I can't organise Centrelink before I get out?
> How much money will I get?
> Do I need to prove that I am looking for work?
> Can I organise to get paid without going in to the Centrelink office?
We know that coming out of prison and settling back into the community is difficult for many people. It can be even harder when you have a disability and need someone to help you. There have been some changes recently because of COVID-19 in terms of how disability services are working. Talk to CRC about your support needs and we will do our best to help you find the services you need. You can call CRC on (02) 9288 8700 between Monday and Friday.
> Who do I call to talk about finding disability support?
> Will my usual disability support service still be able to help me?
> What about the NDIS?
Many people lose their personal ID when they have been in custody. It can be difficult to replace when you get out as you often need some form of ID to get other types of ID. It is really important to keep hold of your Release Certificate.
We understand that you may not want people to know you have just been released and showing people the certificate can be distressing, particularly when many services and organisations do not recognise it as official ID. But sometimes this is a really important starting point. Never forget that you are much more than someone who has been in prison – you are a person, like everyone else, who needs and deserves help.
Your release certificate can be useful in helping you to get a birth certificate, which can then help you get photo ID. You can call CRC on (02) 9288 8700 to have someone help you work out what you need to do to get ID.
> I have just got out of prison and I don’t have any identification. How do I get some ID?
> What identification do I need to access Centrelink or get a mobile phone or bank account?
> Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and ID
> Websites and phone numbers for further information:
ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS
Many people who go to prison have ongoing problems with alcohol and/or other drugs (AOD). Using drugs and alcohol is often something that people do to try and manage pain and cope with difficult situations. Nobody chooses to become drug dependent – but it can be very easy to get stuck in a cycle of drug and alcohol use and imprisonment. This information is for people who want some help to find their way out of this cycle.
> How can I get AOD help on release from custody?
> How can I use safely?
> What about methadone?
> 12 Step Meetings
> Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Clients
> Phone Numbers and Websites for Further Information
CLOTHING AND FOOD
When you leave prison, you will need to find your own clothes and food. It is difficult to know what services are open right now and where you can get the things you need. These are not normal times but don’t despair – this will not be forever. This fact sheet focuses on Sydney but wherever you are in NSW, please call CRC on (02) 9288 8700 and we will help you to find what you need in your area.
> I have got out of prison and don’t have any clothes to wear. Where can I get clothes?
> I have got out of prison and don’t have any money or food. Where can I get food?
> I am feeling sick and need some groceries. What should I do? Who can help me?
DOMESTIC AND FAMILY VIOLENCE
This fact sheet is for women on the inside who are at risk of being released back into domestic violence. A lot of women who have been to prison have also survived domestic and family violence. Leaving prison, staying safe, rebuilding your life and finding somewhere to live can be difficult, and can feel overwhelming. But there are many places where you can get help. And remember, you are not alone.
> I am coming out of prison and I am worried about my partner or family member being violent. What should I do?
> What do I do to stay safe when I am released?
> What if I have nowhere to stay?
> What if my partner or family member becomes violent again?
> How do I take out an AVO?
> If I have outstanding warrants and I call the police because I am in danger, can they arrest me?
> The Miranda Project
> If you are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and would like an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person to help you:
> Summary of Phone Numbers and Websites for further information:
The term ‘mental health’ can mean many different things, and is sometimes used to describe feelings of stress, worry and sadness. These feelings are distressing but are sometimes a normal reaction to difficult circumstances. It is not surprising that you feel these things when you have just been released from prison. Finding support and practical help is really important.
Having a ‘mental health condition’ is different to this. Mental health conditions such as major depression, severe anxiety, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia deeply affect how you feel, think and behave. Mental illness can take some time to be formally diagnosed and can often be managed through a combination of medication and therapy with a psychologist. Whatever your concern is about your mental health, CRC can help you to find the best options for support and treatment. Call CRC on (02) 9288 8700.
> I need some help with my mental health. Who can I call to talk to?
> Are community mental health services still operating?
> What if I’m feeling suicidal?
> Dealing with Anxiety and Depression on Release
> Keeping Your Cool
> Are you feeling isolated or lonely?
FINANCES AND DEBT
> Do you have debts or unpaid fines?
> Do you owe money to Centrelink?
> Do you owe Child Support money?
> Do you owe Victims Compensation?
> Do you have unpaid fines?
> Do you need to check your credit record and credit history?
> Do you have debts with Revenue NSW?
> Do you have a referral to a Financial Counsellor?
> If you are under a Restitution Order, have you arranged payment?
> Is your money being looked after by the NSW Trustee and Guardian?
> If you have to pay Child Support, have you contacted the Child Support Agency?
> Have you got a print-out of your Inmate Account Cash Record?
> Do you have a current bank account?
> Have you contacted the bank to make sure your account is still open?
> Do you have a Tax File Number (TFN) or tax you can claim?
> Do you know where to get help for problem gambling?
> I am in financial difficulty and need help with expenses. Is there anyone who can help me?
> I have a power bill that I am struggling to pay and I am worried I might be disconnected – is there any help available?
> How to make your money go further
PROPERTY, CLOTHES OR TRANSPORT
> Is your Property Record up to date?
> Do you have OK clothes for release?
> Have you arranged a property inspection?
> Do you have enough money to get home?
> Do you have public transport information?
> If someone is picking you up, have you confirmed this?
> Will you be on parole supervision when you are released?
> Has your proposed accommodation changed?
> Will you be on supervised parole?
EMPLOYMENTWhen a person who has a criminal conviction recorded against them or who has been given a custodial sentence has served their time, they have the right to feel that they should be able to resume their life. However, this is not always the case. Many people find it difficult to find work when they have a criminal record or have spent time in custody. The good news is that many people are able to find work after having spent time in prison.
> Have you registered with a Job Services Australia provider?
> What services might be able to help me to find a job?
> Have you got a CSI Work Reference?
> What information is disclosed in a criminal record check?
> Do you believe you have been discriminated against because of your criminal record while searching for work?
> Have you received a letter about your visa being cancelled?
FAMILY AND CHILDREN
> Are you returning to your family?
> What do you expect of your partner after you’re released?
> What if you had relationship problems before you went to prison?
> Did you start your relationship while in prison?
> Are you returning to your children?
> Will your children be living with you all or some of the time after your release?
> Will you be a single parent after you’re released?
> Are you returning to live with your parents?
> Who else can help me?
> Do you need help with separation, custody and child support issues?
Studying may be a good option for you to help learn new skills, give you more options for employment, and generally to help keep you motivated after leaving prison.
> Are you interested in studying at TAFE?
> Are you interested in studying at a Community College?
> Are you interested in studying at university?
Buying and cooking your own food is the cheapest way to eat well.
When you leave prison you can choose what you eat, and when. This can be great, but it can also feel a bit overwhelming when you haven’t had these choices for a long time. Takeaway food is quick and easy, but it costs a lot, and may not be the best for you.
> Healthy eating
> Shopping on a budget
> Losing Weight