Last updated 2 September 2019

A federal prisoner is someone convicted of an offence against Commonwealth law for example social security offences, importation of drugs and terrorism offences. As far as general prison conditions are concerned, they are treated the same way as state prisoners, subject to the same discipline and the same amenities because they are held in state prisons.

Federal parole

Federal parole will have general and specific conditions. All federal parole orders include the following conditions:

  • reporting to a parole officer
  • obtaining approval from their parole officer for accommodation and employment
  • keeping the parole officer informed of any changes of address or job

More information is available on the Australian government website.

Early release

A federal prisoner can prior to their non-parole period apply for early release:

  • early release on licence
  • thirty days early release.

Early release on licence is similar to exceptional circumstances parole described above (see s 19AP Crimes Act 1914 (Cth)).

Exceptional circumstances granted by the federal Attorney-General may include extensive cooperation with law enforcement agencies or development of a serious medical condition which cannot be adequately treated within the prison system. Excellent conduct, remorse or contrition, or family hardship (unless of an extreme kind) would not normally constitute exceptional circumstances.

The person seeking release on licence or their representative should write to the federal Attorney-General’s Department setting out the grounds of the application. The Attorney-General may refuse to consider further applications made within one year of the original application, unless they include new material.

Revocation (breach) of parole orders and licences

If a person on parole or licence is convicted of a further offence and is sentenced to more than three months imprisonment, it will result in the automatic revocation of the parole order or licence.

The Attorney-General may also revoke a parole order or licence at any time if there has been a breach of a condition of the order or licence. The Attorney-General will usually give 14 days written notice of the alleged breach to the offender and give them the opportunity to show cause as to why the order or licence should not be revoked. In some circumstances (e.g. the whereabouts of the parolee is unknown) the notice does not have to be given.

Escape from custody

Where a person is in custody, whether on remand or sentenced for a federal offence only, and they escape from prison, the escapee must be charged under federal and not state law. If they are in custody for both state and federal offences (joint prisoners), they can be charged under either state or federal law but not both.

Administrative review

Decisions made by the federal Attorney-General or their delegates are subject to the administrative review procedures outlined in the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth). The Commonwealth Ombudsman has power to investigate such decisions, and relevant documents are subject to release through the Commonwealth freedom of information legislation.