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Taking justice into custody: summary report, Justice issues paper 2  ( 2008 )  Cite this report

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Legal issues experienced by prisoners

Prison inmates by definition have experienced or are experiencing criminal law issues. However, our research suggests that prisoners commonly face a range of other civil and family law issues as well. Some arise from their chaotic lives and financial disadvantage prior to custody, including outstanding debt, unpaid fines, unresolved family law issues and apprehended violence orders. Imprisonment itself also may lead to further legal issues as the person is suddenly excised from their everyday life. Prisoners’ housing, child custody arrangements, the retention of their personal effects, employment, the operation of any business and/or social security payments are all affected by their sudden separation from the community through incarceration.

I wouldn’t even know what outstanding debts might be out there from five years ago, you know. There might have been $300 on the electricity bill or $400 on the phone account, this here and that there and, all of a sudden it’s turned into $2000 because of interest and you know, what am I supposed to do with it? I couldn’t really deal with it, I was in jail.
Male sentenced prisoner

Legal issues particular to being a prisoner may also arise, such as bail, prison disciplinary action, classification and segregation issues, victims compensation restitution, and the threat of deportation. When they leave prison, ex-prisoners may experience legal issues relating to their parole and discrimination when seeking housing and employment. Our research also demonstrated that, upon release, prisoners may feel the impact of unresolved legal problems dating from a time prior to custody or during their imprisonment.


Grunseit, A, Forell, S & McCarron, E 2008, Taking justice into custody: the legal needs of prisoners - summary report, Justice issues paper 2, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney