Frequently asked questions
There is so much information that families of prisoners and released prisoners need to know. The frequently asked questions below may help. If your question isn’t covered or you just need more detailed advice, please contact us.
Please note any information provided is general information and not legal advice. In some circumstances it may be necessary to seek legal advice.
- My son is coming out of prison soon. I’ve heard there is a crisis payment from Centrelink. How do I find out if he’s eligible for that?
- How do I visit someone in prison?
It’s important to know that you must always make an appointment before you visit anyone in prison. Visiting hours and arrangements vary between prisons, so its best to check that information on the Department of Corrective Services website. In most of the WA prisons you will need to check in with the Outcare Family Support centre that is usually located outside the prison gates. As well as providing information on prison processes, we can support you in a variety of practical and emotional ways.
- I’m going to Court soon and I may have to go to prison. Does that affect the child support that I pay?
The most important step for you is to contact the Department of Human Services as soon as you know your circumstances. They need to know how they can contact you, and if your income is going to change, as that may alter your payments. You can also authorise someone to act on your behalf while you are in prison by filling out a form that is available on their website.
- I have a criminal record. Do I have to mention it when I apply for jobs?
While you don’t have to declare your criminal record during the job application process, there are some good reasons to do so. If an employer knows about your past you don’t have to worry about your convictions being discovered later. Declaring your convictions also means you have some control over the way the information is discussed. In fact many employers get you to fill out an application form that contains a question on past convictions, so it’s useful to think about the best way to talk about it. Outcare’s Workforce Development program can help you with ways to mention your criminal record.
- My partner is in prison at the moment – does she have to lodge a tax return?
The usual rules on lodging tax returns apply whether you are in prison or not. There are some concessions on some of the paperwork you need to supply, however it’s best to check everything out directly with the Australian Tax Office. You may be eligible to get some assistance in filling out your form from a Tax Help volunteer who can visit you in prison. These community volunteers are trained and supported by the Australian Tax Office to offer a free and confidential service to people on a low income.
- I rent my home and I’m worried about what happens when I go to prison.
There are a few things to think about with rentals when you go to prison. Firstly if you rent from the Department of Housing you need to talk to them as soon as possible. If you are the only tenant and your prison sentence is less than six months, they may approve you subletting to someone else. If you share the property, you will still have to let them know you are moving out and the other tenants may be able to request a review of their rent. Subletting may also be possible with private rentals, but again you need to talk to your landlord. With any kind of rental it’s a good idea to see if family or friends can move your things out, clean up the property and return your keys as soon as possible. That way you can avoid the extra expense of your landlord having to do this. For information on your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, check out the Consumer Protection website. Remember that Outcare can help you to find accommodation when you are released from prison.
- How do I organise for someone to do my banking and look after my property when I’m in prison?
While you’re in prison it can be difficult to look after your financial affairs. It may be a good idea to give someone else the power to act on your behalf. Sometimes this is as simple as writing a letter to an organisation (eg your bank) which gives a particular person permission to do a specific task. If many of the household utilities are in your name (phone, gas, electricity) you will need to do this so that other members of the household have authority over the account. You can also get a power of attorney, which is a legal document that gives another person the power to act for you. The power of attorney can be worded to cover a particular purpose (eg sale of a property) or for a set amount of time. You may like to get some legal advice on the best option for you. Legal Aid WA has some information on powers of attorney on their website.
- My partner is a permanent resident but not a citizen. Will a criminal record affect his ability to continue living here?
There may be circumstances for anyone holding a permanent resident visa to be deported due to a criminal record. There are two sections of the Migration Act 1958 that are relevant – Section 201 relates to the length of residency, the crime, and the length of a prison sentence, and Section 501 relates to the Minister’s opinion of a person’s character and their right to continue hold a permanent residents visa. For deportation to be possible you have to have been in Australia for less than 10 years and your prison sentence needs to be serious. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection look at many factors in investigating deportation including:
- the nature and circumstances of your offence
- comments of the judge/magistrate at your trial
- what progress you have made in addressing your behaviour
- whether or not you are likely to offend again
- any previous criminal record
- the safety of the Australian community
- your family and other community commitments in Australia
- the obligations of the Government in relation to the status of refugees (If you are a refugee).
If a deportation order is received you can appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. You may need to seek out some more advice on your situation. We suggest you contact Department of Immigration and Border Protection.