Minister Questioned about Letters 8/11/23

Prisoners have received original letters from their loved ones since the establishment of Australia as a penal colony in 1788. However, the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Amendment (Inmate Mail) Regulation 2020 (NSW) now prevents prisoners from receiving original letters and envelopes.

Prisoners are now subject to receiving photocopies which comes with a host of issues. Photocopied letters are often often incomplete so that in many letters only the right-hand side is readable, and in some instances, up to one-third of the letter is unreadable. In addition, photocopies of letters cannot capture details such as the scent of perfume or smudge of lipstick, which add irreplaceable sentimental value. 

The following supplementary questions were posed by Ms Sue Higginson MLC to Minister Chanthivong at the Correction’s Budget Estimates hearing (page 58). Answers must be supplied by 6/12/23. 

  1. We have received reports that inmate mail has been mixed up and some mail digitally distributed to the wrong inmates, potentially placing some families and individuals at risk of harm. Can you confirm whether this occurred, when and how many times? (a) What are you doing to rectify this and ensure it does not occur again? 
  2. Inmates report receiving photocopies of letters that are only partially legible or at times the entire letter is unreadable. The Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Amendment (Inmate Mail) Regulation 2020 that allows letters to be photocopied was gazetted in 2020 as part of the COVID 19 response. Will you commit to repealing this regulation to ensure inmates have access to their original mail? (a) If no, what will you do to guarantee inmate mail is always readable? (b) What will you do to ensure that inmate mail is not destroyed, as per the practice of some correctional centres in line with Section 471.6 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) which makes it an offence to damage or destroy mail?

Find more information on prisoners’ rights to letters here