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Contacting prisoners

Temporary Update: During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the South Australian Department for Correctional Services has put in place temporary restrictions on visiting prisoners.

These measures have been necessary to protect the health, safety and security of prisoners, staff, visitors and the community.

Please check the Department for Correctional Services website here for up to date procedures about contacting prisoners [link opens in a new window].


Remand prisoners are allowed up to three visitors at a time, three times in each week [see Correctional Services Act 1982 (SA) s 34(2) and Correctional Services Regulations 2016 (SA) reg 39(2)]. Other prisoners are allowed one visit, of up to three people, once in each two week period [see s 34(1) and reg 39(1)].

Prisoners are allowed visits from their lawyers, which do not count as personal visits if they are for legal business [Correctional Services Act 1982 (SA) s 35(2)]. Lawyers are guided by the Department for Correctional Services Professional Visits Guide.

The Chief Executive of the Department can permit extra visits for special reasons (although this is very rare) and can also stop a particular person from visiting a prisoner.

The following restrictions also apply to visitors:

  • visitors must provide evidence of their identity;
  • visitors may see and speak with a prisoner but are not generally permitted to touch the prisoner;
  • a person who has been released from prison may not, without the approval of the Chief Executive, visit another prisoner within 12 months of the date they were released from prison;
  • a person under the age of 18 years may not, without the approval of the Chief Executive, visit a prisoner if the prisoner has ever been found guilty of a child sexual offence;
  • a person who the Chief Executive believes on reasonable grounds is a member of a criminal organisation, or associates with, or has associated with, a member of a criminal organisation, may not visit a prisoner without the approval of the Chief Executive

See Correctional Services Act 1982 s 34(4).

If a person would like to request approval of the Chief Executive to visit a prisoner, they should do so by letter to:

Chief Executive Custodial Services

GPO Box 1747


The letter should cover things such as:

  • who they are;
  • their relationship to the prisoner;
  • whether they were able to visit the prisoner prior to 9 November 2012 (if applicable);
  • why they should be able to visit or continue to visit; and
  • any adverse affects of not being able to visit or continue to visit.

If the approval is sought for a child to visit a prisoner who has ever been found guilty of a child sexual offence, the letter should also cover the child's relationship to the prisoner and whether the child was a victim of the offending.

The Chief Executive will respond to requests for approval by return letter.

Information that is classified by the Commissioner of Police as criminal intelligence for the purposes of granting an approval to visit a prisoner [under s 34(4)], or excluding a person from entering a correctional institution, may not be disclosed to any person other than the Chief Executive, the Minister, a court, or a person to whom the Commissioner of Police authorises its disclosure [see s 6(1)].

Under section 4 of the Act, criminal intelligence means:

  • information relating to actual or suspected criminal activity (whether in South Australia or elsewhere) the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to prejudice criminal investigations; OR
  • enable the discovery of the existence or identity of a confidential source of information relevant to law enforcement; OR
  • endanger a person's life or physical safety

Where the Chief Executive has:

  • refused to grant approval to a person to visit a prisoner, or has excluded a person from a particular correctional institution, or institutions; and
  • has made the decision based on information that is classified as criminal intelligence by the Commissioner of Police;

then the Chief Executive is not required to provide any grounds or reasons for the decision other than that it was made in the public interest, or that it would be contrary to the public interest if the person were to be permitted to visit a prisoner in, or enter, the correctional institution or institutions [see s 6(2)].

The Chief Executive also has the ability to exclude a person from entering, or visiting a correctional institution where the Chief Executive believes on reasonable grounds that the person:

  • is interfering with, or is likely to interfere with, the good order of the or security of the correctional institution; or
  • is a member of a criminal organisation, or associates with, or has associated with, a member of a criminal organisation.

The Chief Executive may, by written order, direct that the person be excluded from a specified correctional institution, all correctional institutions of a specified class, or all correctional institutions, until further order or for a specified period.

The Chief Executive may however permit a person to visit a prisoner (either on a particular occasion or on a regular basis (as the Chief Executive considers appropriate).

See Correctional Services Act 1982 (SA) s 85A.

Under s 4 of the Act, a criminal organisation means a criminal organisation within the meaning of Division 1 or Division 2 of Part 3B of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935.

Drug and Alcohol Testing- Other Persons (excluding prisoners or Department employees/officers)

Under section 81V of the Correctional Services Act 1982 (SA), the Chief Executive may, subject to the person's consent, require a person who enters a correctional institution to do any of the following in accordance with the rules:

  • to submit to an alcotest or breath analysis, or both, for the purpose of testing for the presence of alcohol; or
  • to submit to a drug screening test for the purpose of testing for the presence of drugs; or
  • to provide a biological sample for the purpose of a blood test, urinalysis or an oral fluid analysis to test for the presence of alcohol or drugs.

If a person does not consent to the drug and alcohol testing, the Chief Executive may cause the person to be refused entry, or to be removed from the correctional institution, using only such force as is reasonably necessary for the purpose (see s 81V(2) of the Act).

The biological samples (including any forensic material), the results of any drug and alcohol testing or analysis, or an admission or a statement made by a person relating to such drug and alcohol testing, is not admissible in any other proceedings and cannot be used for any other purposes that what is contemplated by the Act (see 81X of the Act).

See Part 7A of Correctional Services Regulations 2016 (SA) for further details of the drug and alcohol testing process.


A prisoner is entitled to send and receive letters but the Chief Executive may cause all mail, whether it is sent from or to a prisoner, to be opened and examined to check whether it contravenes section 33 of the Correctional Services Act 1982 [see s 33(4)]. The Chief Executive must advise a prisoner of any action taken in respect of any letters sent from or to prisoners [s 33(12)].

Letters sent from a prisoner to certain public authorities or a legal practitioner cannot be opened [see s 33(7)]. Similarly, if the authorised officer is satisfied a letter sent from certain public authorities or a legal practitioner, they may not open the letter [see s 33(8)].

The Chief Executive has a discretion as to what goods prisoners may receive [see s 33A].

Phone calls and other communication

Prisoners may not receive telephone calls, but may make a limited number of outgoing calls each week. The rules as to the number of calls that may be made vary from prison to prison. Prison officers can also disconnect telephone calls and prisoners are only permitted to telephone a limited number of phone numbers.

The Chief Executive has the power to monitor or record a prisoner's communication with another person. Communication is defined broadly to include conversation or message in any form or combination of forms. However, the parties to the communication must be informed about the monitoring or recording. If the Chief Executive has authorised a particular communication beforehand then the Chief Executive must not monitor or record it [see Correctional Services Act 1982 (SA) s 35A].

Contacting prisoners  :  Last Revised: Mon May 11th 2020
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.