Contributed by AndrewRobson and current to 27 July 2018

As noted above, imprisonment is one sentencing option open in relation to certain crimes. The Prisons Act 1981 (WA) and related Regulations govern prisons.

The Department of Justice maintains the custody of prisoners and the security and good order of prisons throughout the State. It is responsible for the management of Western Australian prisons and, in accordance with the Prisons Act and Director General’s Rules, also oversees the assessment and placement of offenders in appropriate prisons for the duration of their sentences.

The Department’s prisons are diverse. Some prisoners serve their sentences in minimum security prison farms, others in regional prisons across the State and others in maximum security prisons such as Casuarina Prison.


Banksia Hill is the only detention facility for children aged 10 to 17 in Western Australia. Banksia Hill has both children on remand, awaiting the resolution of their case and those children who have been sentenced.

Female prisoners

Boronia Women’s Pre-Release Centre works towards providing for the specific needs of female offenders. Boronia has a family-friendly focus where children can reside with the mother at the centre until they turn four. Bandyup is a maximum-security women’s prison, which does not have the same facilities as Boronia but has special facilities and programs for when children visit, which are run by Outcare. Melaleuca Remand and Reintegration Facility has remand prisoners and women approaching the end of their sentence and preparing for release.

Who may be imprisoned?

There are two sorts of prisoners:
  • remand prisoners who are awaiting trial or sentence; and
  • sentenced prisoners who have received a sentence of imprisonment by the court.
Generally, remand prisoners are held in a remand centre, but if there is none available in the area then they are held in a prison, separate from the general prison public.

A prisoner is entitled to be told why he or she is in custody, under what authority he or she is held in custody and, where it can be calculated, when he or she is likely to be released (Regulation 51, Prisons Regulations 1982).

Security rating

The Department of Justice determines the security rating of all prisoners pursuant to Rule 13 of the Director’s Rules (“the Rules”), which provide for the classification, placement, and transfer of offenders. The Rules and Policy Directives form part of the overall system of prisons and prisoner management that is derived from the Prisons Act 1981. These rules are approved by the Minister.

There are specific assessment criteria outlined in rule 13 paragraph 7.2 of the Rules by which the prisoners are classified into one of 3 categories, that is:
  • maximum security;
  • medium security; or
  • minimum security.
Depending on the type of offence, the security rating will be as follows:
  • if the sentence is between six and thirty-six months: medium security;
  • and over 36 months: maximum security.
Prisoners may often be rated maximum security initially until they are fully assessed, and then the rating may be varied.

For long-term prisoners, regular assessments are made to determine when a prisoner may expect to be re-classified to a lower security rating, transfer to a different prison, be eligible for release programs, and be able to undertake educational training programs.


It is possible for a prisoner to be transferred to a prison closer to family members; this depends primarily on the prisoner’s security rating.


Rule 13 paragraph 13.1 provides that a prisoner has the right to appeal against decisions in respect of any of the following:
  • security rating, placements, and individual management plans;
  • subsequent variation of security rating and placement;
  • home leave, except in cases where the decision was made by the Director of Sentence Management;
  • grant of a permit for leave of absence from the prison pursuant to s.83 of the Prisons Act where a recommendation has been made by the Unit Conference;
  • temporary transfer visits; and
  • inter-prison visits.

Procedure involved in being admitted to prison

A new prisoner is brought to the reception area of the prison where he or she is checked against the warrants of committal to ensure that they relate to that person and that they are being legally held.

Personal particulars are taken and the person’s property is listed. The Superintendent may allow a prisoner to keep some property in his or her cell. TVs and radios are not to be taken into prison but may be purchased by the prisoner while in prison and, with the Superintendent’s permission, can be kept in the cell. The prisoner signs an itemised list of the prisoner’s property.

The person’s photograph is taken and their personal clothing must be removed prior to taking a shower. Clothing is placed in a bag and washed if dirty. A search is made of the person and this may include a rectal examination. A prison officer completes an admission checklist to determine whether any problems exist with family, hire purchase commitments or property, whether the prisoner’s family knows where the prisoner is and whether the prisoner is in any danger from other prisoners or to him or herself.

The prisoner is issued with prison clothing and then proceeds for a medical examination as soon as possible. The prisoner is then allocated a cell.


Prisoners may be detained in lock-ups operated by the police or on behalf of the Department of Justice in one or more of the following circumstances:
  • while in transit between prisons;
  • pending removal to a prison;
  • at the request of the prisoner and with the consent of the lock-up operator, or at the request of a lock-up operator and with the consent of the prisoner;
  • when accommodation is insufficient at the local prison;
  • for discharge;
  • any other special or extenuating circumstances as determined by the Director, Offender Services & Sentence Management.

Interstate transfer of prisoners

The Prisoner (Interstate Transfer) Act 1983 (WA) provides for prisoners to be transferred to another state or territory of Australia to serve their sentence. Each State, the Territories, and the Commonwealth have enacted legislation to enable the prisoner transfer scheme to operate.

Prisoners should ask their Unit Manager for the prescribed form on which to apply for transfer. There are two grounds for which approval may be granted:

The prisoner's welfare

The Minister responsible for corrections in both the State and Territory where the prisoner is currently imprisoned and where the prisoner has applied to be transferred must approve the prisoner’s application. If the prisoner is serving a sentence for a federal offence, then the approval of the Commonwealth must also be given.

A prisoner must establish very strong welfare grounds before approval is granted. The Department, the prisoner, his or her family and friends prepare reports and are interviewed to determine whether it is in the interests of the prisoner’s welfare to be transferred. The prisoner may only apply once a year to be considered for transfer on welfare grounds.


If the prisoner has outstanding warrants in another state or territory, he or she may apply on the prescribed form to be transferred to that state or territory to be dealt with according to law. The Attorneys General of the state where the prisoner is serving a sentence and of the state which issued the warrant must approve the application.

If the prisoner is serving imprisonment for a federal offence, the Commonwealth Attorney-General must also approve. When all relevant approvals have been obtained, the Department applies to a Magistrates Court to issue an order of transfer.

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