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 a prison sentence. Parole in Queensland is either court-ordered or board-ordered and is governed by the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 and the Corrective Services Act 2006.
Offenders who are sentenced to imprisonment for up to 3 years have a parole release date issued by the court at the time of sentencing. This does not include those sentenced for sex offences or serious violence offences.
Offenders who have a parole eligibility date must apply to the Parole Board for release. A prisoner cannot apply:
- before 180 days until their parole eligibility date;
- until the date specified by the board;
- if they have lodged an appeal against their conviction or sentence.
A prisoner can be released from custody before their parole eligibility date if they can prove exceptional circumstances exist.
Whether a prisoner’s sentence sets a release date or an eligibility date depends on the type of offence and the term of imprisonment.
All parolees are supervised in the community by Corrective Services until their sentence ends.
Serious violent offences and life sentences
Prisoners who have committed “serious violent offences”, such as child sexual offences, must serve 80 per cent of their sentence or 15 years, whichever is less, before they can apply for parole. A prisoner serving a life sentence must serve 15 years in prison before being eligible. This term increases to 20 years if the prisoner has a life sentence for multiple counts of murder or previous murder convictions.
The Parole Board is an independent body charged with making parole decisions. Community safety is its highest priority in deciding whether a prisoner should be released.
The board’s tasks include determining:
- applications for exceptional circumstances parole;
- whether to amend or suspend parole;
- whether to allow a parolee to travel interstate for longer than 7 days;
- whether to allow a parolee to travel overseas;
- applications where the No Body No Parole provisions apply;
- applications where the prisoner has links to terrorism.
In assessing a prisoner’s suitability, the board will consider factors such as:
- the prisoner’s criminal history and offending pattern;
- any circumstances likely to increase the risk the prisoner presents to the community;
- whether the offending was a serious sexual offence or serious violent offence;
- the parole recommendation and judge’s comments at sentencing;
- any medical, psychological or psychiatric risk assessment report for the prisoner;
- the prisoner’s behaviour in prison;
- the prisoner’s progress and compliance with rehabilitation and intervention programs in prison.
- access to community support or services for the prisoner upon release;
- accommodation for the prisoner upon release.
Judicial review by the Supreme Court is the only appeal process available to a prisoner if they disagree with a parole decision. A review is limited to the legality of the decision (not the merits) and the court cannot substitute a decision made by the board.
No Body No Parole laws
The board must refuse parole to a prisoner who is serving a jail sentence for homicide and the body or remains (or part thereof) of the victim have not been found. The exception is if the board is satisfied the prisoner has co-operated in identifying the victim’s location.
Conditions attached to parole 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, the wearing of a tracking device, or the addressing of mental health concerns.
If a prisoner does not comply with conditions, the board has several options.
The board can immediately suspend parole if it believes a prisoner:
- has failed to comply with the order;
- poses a serious risk of harm to someone;
- poses an unacceptable risk of committing an offence;
- plans to leave the state without approval;
- has been charged with a further offence.
Once parole is suspended, a warrant is issued for the prisoner’s return to prison. Once the prisoner is returned to prison, they are asked to “show cause”. The board considers the response and can defer the decision for further information, lift the suspension, or cancer and/or amend the order.
If a prisoner commits a further offence while on parole and is sentenced to prison for it, parole is automatically cancelled. If the prisoner is sentenced to an intensive corrections order or a wholly suspended sentence, parole is not automatically cancelled but the sentence is considered in determining whether to cancel it.
For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.