What Can I Expect in Prison?

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Prison tower

If you have a court appearance scheduled in the near future, and one of the possible penalties you face is a term in prison, you will probably be feeling apprehensive.

You may also be unsure about the process itself, and what happens if a prison sentence is handed down.

If your case has been decided and you have been sentenced to serve time in prison, you will be taken directly from the courthouse to the jail unless your criminal lawyer lodges an appeal and is able to have you released on bail pending your appeal date.

Although the specific details of your sentence will vary depending on the nature of your offence, here is a basic guide to what you can expect if you are sent to prison.


There is a standard reception process for all new prison inmates.

In Sydney, the reception process will generally take place at the Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre (MRRC), which is located at Silverwater.

Once you arrive at the reception centre, you will be fingerprinted and photographed, and a strip search will be conducted.

Your clothing and any personal belongings you have with you will be taken and placed into storage, and you will be issued with prison clothing and some basic toilettries.

You will then be given a six digit Master Index Number (MIN), which will remain the same if you are ever readmitted into custody at a later date.


Once you have been admitted into custody, you will then undergo screening for any health or mental health issues, including drug or alcohol withdrawal, which may affect you during your time in custody.

The screening is usually conducted by nurses and psychologists, and depending on what time of day you arrive at the reception centre, it may take place straight away, or you may need to wait for a team to become available.

You will usually be given the opportunity to make urgent phone calls.

You can ask someone to notify your landlord, employer, or anybody else who needs to be advised that you are in custody, but otherwise your telephone access will be restricted during this process.

After screening

Once the reception process is completed, you will be sent to the part of the prison that is considered most appropriate for you given the nature of your offence.

You can also be sent to another facility. Once you have arrived, you will be advised how to set up your phone account, and you will be able to settle in to prison life and a regular routine.

You will be able to receive letters, and have visitors.

Outgoing phone calls will be restricted to a pre-approved list, and you won’t be able to receive incoming phone calls while you are in custody.

You will also be restricted as to how much money you can have in your bank account, and you will be expected to comply with the rules and regulations of the facility you have been sent to.

This will mean submitting to searches and drug testing at random intervals, and appearing at regular roll calls during the day.

Being prepared can make the transition to a correctional facility less daunting.

If you suspect that you are going to receive a prison sentence, make sure you are prepared as much as you can be, and have informed close family and friends, so they know what to do.

Your criminal defence lawyer can advise you further on the prison process, and give you advice on your case, and any appeals, while you are in custody.

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Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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