Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide a summary and general overview only. It is not intended to be, nor does it constitute, legal advice. You should seek legal advice from a barrister or solicitor working in the area of criminal and/or human rights law before acting or relying on any of its content.
What is parole?
When a person is sentenced to imprisonment for more than 6 months the court must set a ‘non-parole period’. This is the time the person must spend in custody. For example, a 6 year prison term could have a 4 year non-parole period. Whilst that person must remain in gaol for 4 years they may be allowed to serve the remaining two years of their sentence on parole. Parole is where an offender is released to serve the balance of their sentence in the community.
Why is parole granted?
The purpose of parole is to help offenders manage the difficult transition from full-time custody to living in the community. It provides a measure of protection to the community by ensuring that offenders are assisted and supervised in their efforts to re-enter society.
When will parole be granted?
Parole is overseen by the NSW State Parole Authority under the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999. In deciding whether to grant parole they are required to consider:
· The safety of the community
· The impact the offender’s release may have on the victims of the crime
· The intentions of the sentencing court
· The offender’s circumstances
Other factors that they will take into account include the nature of the offence, the person’s criminal history, recommendations from health professionals and Corrective Services, submissions from the offender’s family and friends, and any representations made by the offender.
Are there conditions to parole?
If parole is granted strict conditions are placed on the offender. These are usually tailored to specifically address the underlying factors which may have led them to committing the crime. They include:
· Abstinence from alcohol
· Random substance testing (drugs and alcohol)
· Treatment for drug or alcohol addiction
· Treatment for psychological or psychiatric issues
· Restricted contact with certain individuals (for example co-offenders or victims)
· Restrictions on places the parolee is able to visit
Breach of any of those conditions will likely result in parole being revoked and the offender returning to prison. Once an offender has been returned to custody they do have a right to seek review of that decision.
Does parole work?
Parole works says one study. A September 2014 study released by the Australian Institute of Criminology suggests that parole supervision reduces the risk of an individual re-offending. Although more than 12,000 offenders are on parole in NSW at any given time, to date no substantial research had been conducted into the effectiveness of this system. This study, which was one of the first to measure the effectiveness of parole supervision, found that offenders released from custody on parole took longer to commit a new offence, were less likely to commit a new serious offence and generally committed fewer offences than offenders who were released unconditionally into the community. For more information, see “Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 485”, September 2014, Australian Institute of Criminology.
Support Post Release
Initial Transitional Service - provides support to offenders at a high risk of returning to gaol/jail, who are subject to supervision in the community by Corrective Services NSW. Support services offered to participants include assistance managing mental health issues, gaining accommodation and employment and accessing drug and alcohol counselling. Service providers include:
Australian Community Support Organisation (Bathurst, Campbelltown, Dubbo, Kempsey, Lismore, Mt Druitt, Parramatta, Wagga Wagga, Wollongong and Wyong)
Community Restorative Centre (Leichardt, Broken Hill)
The Salvation Army (Tamworth, Newcastle).
Extended Reintegration Service - provides assistance to offenders at a high risk of returning to gaol/jail and who face significant challenges reintegrating into society. This service is provided by the Community Restorative Centre (Southwestern Sydney-based service).
Transitional Supported Accommodation - provides transitional post release accommodation and support to parolees at high risk of returning to gaol/jail. Service providers include:
Adele House (Coffs Harbour, Toongabbie)
Glebe House (Glebe)
Guthrie House (Enmore)
Namatjira Haven (Lismore)
Rainbow Lodge (Glebe)
St Vincent De Paul (Nowra).
Family, Friends and Children Visitor Support Service – a service set up to maintain and strengthen relationships between inmates and their families, friends and children, with the focus on enabling prison/gaol/jail visits. This service is provided by SHINE for Kids (at Silverwater, Long Bay, John Morony, Cessnock, South Coast, Mid North Coast, Bathurst, Goulburn and Wellington Correctional Complexes and Centres).
Contact Coordination and Support Service - arranges or provides support to families, friends and children seeking to visit an inmate. This service is provided by the Community Restorative Centre (State-wide).
Victim Impact Risk Management Seminars - seminars targeted at lower-risk inmates serving short sentences. These seminars can assist with reintegration and help offenders understand the impact of crime on victims and the community. This service is provided by the Enough is Enough Anti Violence Movement.
Partner Support - provides support for female partners of domestic violent offenders who are undertaking Corrective Services NSW’s Domestic Abuse Program. Service providers include:
Centrecare New England North West
South West Sydney Legal Centre
Wollongong Women’s Refuge.