What do I need to do if I want to visit someone in prison?

First of all, the prisoner must invite you to visit by sending you a visitor’s approval form to fill out. (If you are under 16 years of age the form will be sent to your guardian to fill out.)

The information you need to provide on the form includes:

A form needs to be completed for each person who wants to visit the person in prison, including any children. After you post the form or forms back to the prison, your application will be assessed by prison staff. You will then be sent either an approval letter or notification that your application has been denied.

If you receive an approval letter, you can then book a visit in advance by calling the prison. On the day and time of your visit you must bring the approval letter and your photo ID with you. 

Prisoners are allowed at least one half-hour visit each week – exactly how many visits and how many visitors, will depend on the prison. 

More information about prison visits is on the Corrections website.

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When can the prison deny approval for me to visit someone in prison?

If your application to visit someone in prison has been denied, the prison will notify you via a ‘deny approval’ notification. This will include information about why you’ve been denied approval, and how long the denial remains in force.

Approval for your visit can be denied if the prison believes that your visit could pose a risk to prison discipline, security, or to the prisoner’s rehabilitation. For example, if you broke visiting rules or behaved improperly during a previous visit, the prison can ban you from future visits for three to 12 months. If you are a former prisoner, you will probably not get approval unless you are the prisoner’s partner or a member of their family or whānau.

More about this is in chapter six of the Community Law Centres book, LAG LAW - Your rights inside prison and on release.

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My partner is in prison, and there’s a protection order in place against them. Can the kids and I still visit?
Yes you can, and it is not necessary to have the protection order cancelled (“discharged”) in order to be able to have contact with your partner in prison.

Anyone who wishes to visit a prisoner or have other contact (e.g. by phone or mail) with a prisoner must first be approved by Corrections. This is true even for the prisoner's children.

If there is a protection order in place you will need to give a copy of it to the prison as part of your application to be approved visitors. See the first question on this page to find out about getting approval.

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Where can I find out more about the prison my partner is in?

Each prison is different – the size, the levels of security, and the types of facilities. For prison contact details and information about each prison, see the Corrections website.

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How do I track down someone who I think is in prison?

You can write to or email the Department of Corrections to try to find out. You need to include:

  • the full name and date of birth of the person you want to contact
  • any other names by which they are known
  • their date of birth
  • the reason for enquiry
  • your postal address

Send your letter to:

Head Office
Department of Corrections
PO Box 1206
Wellington 6140.

The person in prison will receive your details and will decide whether Corrections can tell you where they are being held. More information is on the Corrections website.


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What can I do about all of my fines while I am in prison?

If you won’t be able to pay off your fines because you will be in prison for a reasonable amount of time, you or your lawyer can apply to the Ministry of Justice to have your fines remitted (cancelled). Your application will be considered by a judge or community magistrate. 

However you need to think about this carefully before you apply, because the judge may require you to spend more time in prison instead of paying the fines.

You can contact the Ministry of Justice by post:

Ministry of Justice
DX Box SX10042

Note that you cannot apply to get reparations remitted.


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How do I make a complaint about how inmates in a prison are being treated?

If you are a prisoner you can make an informal complaint about a prison to the senior prison officer in your unit. They have to give you a complaint form if you ask for one, in order to make a formal complaint. 

If the corrections officer is unable to resolve the complaint, they can refer it to prison management (or, in some cases, to an inspector of Corrections. The prison must investigate your complaint (unless they believe it is “frivolous” or “vexatious”). If they won’t investigate, they must tell you in writing.

You (or someone on your behalf) can also complain to an inspector of Corrections or to an external body, for example:

  • the Privacy Commissioner - about a breach of the Privacy Act
  • the Ombudsman - about Corrections misusing their powers in relation to prisoners (e.g. monitoring calls or mail)
  • the Health and Disability Commissioner -  about the health care of prisoners. More information is on their website
  • the  Human Rights Commission - about a breach of human rights

If you have complained to one of the above external bodies and are not satisfied with the result, you can appeal to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

More information is on chapter nine of LAG LAW – Your rights inside prison and on release (downloadable from the Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley website).

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Can I prevent my ex from calling me from prison?

Prisoners are allowed to make phone calls from payphones installed in the prison, and can call up to 10 approved phone numbers.

Your phone number will only be approved if you are happy to receive calls from within the prison. 

If you previously gave permission for your ex to call you from prison but have since changed your mind, you can ask the prison to remove your phone number from the prisoner’s approved list.

More information about making phone calls from prison is on the Corrections website.

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If someone has been found to be wrongfully imprisoned, are they entitled to any compensation?

Compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment is not an automatic entitlement, but is determined on a case - by- case basis.

The person who has been wrongfully imprisoned, or their lawyer, can apply to the Minister of Justice for compensation. Generally, compensation will only be considered if that person:

  • is still alive when they apply for compensation; 
  • has served all or part of a prison sentence; and
  • has received a free pardon or had their convictions quashed on appeal without an order of retrial.

You will find more information about Compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment on the Ministry of Justice website.