For people in prison or detention

If a person is in prison or another place of detention, they still have human rights. People who are in prison or detention are entitled to protection from discrimination and sexual harassment.

Our guide to human rights, discrimination and sexual harassment for people in prison is available to read online or to download as a pdf (PDF File, 716.1 KB) .

For people detained in closed environments like prisons, some human rights will be restricted because of the nature of detention. Rights like liberty and freedom of movement are necessarily limited in prison. However, human rights should not limited more than what is necessary to maintain a safe and operational prison or detention centre.

A combination of state and federal laws protect the human rights of prisoners and people in places of detention. These laws are based on international human rights instruments which Australia has signed.

In Queensland, the Human Rights Act 2019 means prisons and state-run places of detention must act and make decisions which are compatible with human rights. This will involve considering the rights of prisoners, prison staff, visitors, family, victims of crime, and the broader community.

Sometimes a person's rights may be further limited in prison than they normally are because there is an important purpose to achieve, such as preserving the right to life. The measures currently in place in Queensland prisons to try and protect prisoners and staff from the threat caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic are one example. However, these limitations need to:

  • be proportionate and justifiable;
  • have a legitimate aim; and
  • not remain in place for longer than necessary.

Some groups are more vulnerable than others to breaches of human rights in correctional settings, including women and Indigenous prisoners. Indigenous prisoners are significantly overrepresented in the prison system, as are people with disability; it is estimated that more than half of the people in prison have a disability, whether cognitive, physical or mental health.

Please note that immigration detention centres are not run by the state of Queensland. For human rights concerns regarding these places of detention, please contact the Australian Human Rights Commission or the Commonwealth Ombudsman.