Imprisonment (Qld)

When a person is sentenced for criminal offences in Queensland, the most severe penalty that can be imposed is a term of imprisonment or detention. A term of imprisonment may be imposed in several different ways in Queensland, including actual jail time, a suspended sentence and an intensive corrections order. This page deals with imprisonment in Queensland.


Many people who are in prison in Queensland are being held on remand.

Remand is the detention or imprisonment of a person who has been charged with criminal offences and denied bail. A person remains on remand until bail is granted or until the charges are finalised.

If a person who has been held on remand is found guilty of offences and sentenced to imprisonment, their sentence will usually be backdated to the date when they first went into custody.

When an adult is remanded, they are held in a prison. When a young person under 18 is remanded, they are held in a youth detention facility.

Sentences of imprisonment

When a person is sentenced to a custodial term, this may be imposed in the form of actual imprisonment, as a suspended sentence, or as an intensive corrections order.

Actual imprisonment

When an offender is sentenced to ‘actual’ imprisonment, this means serving time in prison. Courts have discretion as to the term of imprisonment they imposed; however, the term must be set within the limits imposed by legislation.

In the Magistrates Court, the maximum term that can be imposed for a single offence is three years. In the higher courts, the maximum penalty for each individual offence is set out in the legislation.

Some offences also have a minimum term that must be imposed. When dealing with such an offence, the court can impose more than the mandatory minimum term, but it cannot impose a lesser sentence than the minimum.

Suspended imprisonment

When a court imposes a sentence of five years imprisonment or less, it may order that all or part of that sentence is to be suspended if it considers this is appropriate in the circumstances. A term of imprisonment may be suspended for a set period of no more than five years. This is known as the operational period.

When a term of imprisonment is suspended, the offender is allowed to continue living in the community and does not have to serve the term unless they breach the conditions of the suspended sentence.


When a court sentences a person to imprisonment, it may set a non-parole period. In some circumstances, the court must fix a non-parole period.

A non-parole period is a date before which the prisoner is not eligible to apply for release on parole. When a prisoner has a non-parole period set, they may apply to the Queensland Parole Board for release on parole after they have reached the end of their non-parole period.

If no non-parole period is set by the court, a prisoner may apply for parole:

  • after they have completed half of their sentence;
  • for serious violence offences, after they have completed 80% of their sentence.

Probation orders

A court may sentence a person to a probation order, or to a term of actual imprisonment of no more than a year, followed by a period of probation.

A person who is on a probation order is released under the supervision of corrective services. They must not commit another offence and must abide by various other conditions, including reporting to their probation officer and attending programs as directed.

Intensive corrections order

When a court sentences a person to imprisonment for less than one year in Queensland, it may order that the sentence be served as an intensive corrections order (section 112, Penalties and Sentences Act, 1992).

A person who is sentenced to an intensive corrections order serves their sentence in the community under strict supervision by corrective services.

Mandatory sentences of imprisonment

When an adult is sentenced for murder or for serious child sex offences in Queensland, there is a mandatory sentence of imprisonment for life that applies. However, the court may still set a non-parole period.

Under section 305 of the Criminal Code 1899, where a person is sentenced for more than one count of murder or has previously been sentenced for another murder offence, the court must not set a non-parole period that requires the offender to serve less than 30 years of actual imprisonment. Where a person is sentenced for the murder of a police officer, the court must not set a non-parole period that requires the offender to serve less than 25 years of actual imprisonment.

Indefinite sentences of imprisonment

Queensland courts have the power to sentence a person to an indefinite sentence in some limited circumstances. This may occur where a person is being sentenced for murder or for serious violent or sexual offences and the court considers that their release would pose a serious danger to the community.

An indefinite sentence must be reviewed regularly.

Correctional facilities in Queensland

Queensland currently has ten adult correctional facilities, some of which are government-operated and some of which are operated privately.

Queensland also has ten youth justice centres. These are juvenile detention centres that house young people who have been remanded or sentenced to detention.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Taylor Rose.

This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom holds a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, and a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.