Parole refers to a prisoner’s release into the community under supervision. The release is subject to conditions after the offender has served the non-parole period of their sentence. Parole is designed to help a prisoner reintegrate into society while protecting the community. In New South Wales it is governed by the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999.
State Parole Authority
The State Parole Authority (SPA) is an independent body charged with making parole decisions and setting parole conditions.
The Act dictates that at least 60 days before a prisoner’s parole eligibility date, the SPA must consider a prisoner’s release on parole, and make a decision no later than 21 days before that date.
The SPA must not make a parole order unless it is satisfied an order is in the interests of the safety of the community. Under the Act, it must consider:
- the risk to the community in releasing the offender;
- whether parole is likely to address the risk of the offender re-offending;
- the risk to the community of releasing the offender at the end of the sentence without supervised parole, or at a later date with a shorter period of supervised parole.
It must also consider matter such as:
- the nature and circumstances of the offence;
- any comments made by the sentencing court;
- the offender’s criminal record;
- the likely effect on any victim or any such victim’s family;
- whether the offender has failed to disclose the location of any victim’s remains;
- any report from Corrective Services.
Other matters it may consider include:
- submissions from the offender, their family or legal representatives;
- submissions from their victim or their family;
- reports from professionals such as psychiatrists.
An offender sentenced to a jail term of 3 years or less, for which a non-parole period has been set, is taken to be subject to parole once they have served that period.
Serious offenders are those serving a life sentence, a sentence with a non-parole period of 12 years, or a sentence for murder; or those classified as such by a court, the SPA or the Commissioner of Corrective Services.
The parole decision-making process for a serious offender is the same as for other offenders, except that it also requires the SPA to take into account advice and recommendations from the Serious Offenders Review Council. The SPA must not grant parole to a serious offender unless the council advises this is appropriate.
The SPA must also notify any victim of a serious offender that parole is being considered for that offender, and that the victim can apply for reconsideration of the decision.
Special parole restrictions apply to a “terrorism-related offender”, who is an offender who:
- has been charged with, convicted of, or sentenced for, a terrorism offence;
- is the subject of a Commonwealth control order;
- has associations with a terrorist organisation;
- has made any statement supporting any terrorist act or violent extremism;
- has, or has had, any personal or business association or affiliation with a person, people or organisation that is or was advocating support for any terrorist act or violent extremism.
The SPA must not order the release on parole of a terrorism-related offender unless it is satisfied the offender “will not engage in, or incite or assist others to engage in, terrorist acts or violent extremism”. The SPA can consider advice from NSW Police or any other public authority in law enforcement, security or anti-terrorism.
The SPA can make a parole order for an offender when the offender is not otherwise entitled to release on parole if the offender is dying or if there are exceptional extenuating circumstances.
If the SPA decides not to grant parole, it must notify the offender of its decision and that the opportunity for a hearing is available to review the decision.
Conditions attached to a parole order are wide and varied but there are standard conditions attached to every order. Such standard conditions are that the prisoner must:
- not commit an offence;
- submit to drug testing if required;
- report as required to Corrective Services;
- follow instructions from Corrective Services;
- notify of any charge of address or employment.
Other conditions are tailored to the offender, and are designed to ensure the prisoner’s good behaviour in the community and prevent offending. Such conditions might include:
- a curfew;
- a prohibition or restriction from associating with a specified person or being at a certain place;
- random substance testing;
- assessment and treatment for drug or alcohol addiction;
- assessment and treatment for mental illness.
The SPA has the power to impose further conditions, or vary or revoke non-standard conditions. When doing any of these, the SPA must consider:
- whether the new condition, variation or revocation will help manage the risk the parolee poses to the community;
- the likely effect on the crime victim and their family of any new condition, variation or revocation;
- whether the new condition, variation or revocation will help manage the risk of breaches by the parolee.
Breach of parole
If an offender failed to comply with a parole condition, a Corrective Services officer can:
- record the breach and take no further action;
- issue an informal warning;
- issue or arrange a formal warning that further breaches will result in referral to the SPA;
- give a reasonable direction about the behaviour that led to the breach;
- impose a curfew of up to 12 hours in any 24-hour period.
The SPA is notified of breaches via Corrective Services reports. In response to non-compliance with a parole condition, the SAP can impose more severe penalties including revoking parole and issuing a warrant for the offender’s arrest; and imposing a period of home detention of up to 30 days.
For advice or representation in any legal mater, please contact Armstrong Legal.