What Is Parole?
Parole is the conditional release of an offender from prison by a parole board.
When imposing a prison sentence, the sentencing court may set a minimum non-parole period. Release on parole is not automatic. After serving this minimum non-parole period, an offender becomes eligible to apply for parole. The parole board hears the application and decides whether or not to grant parole.
If parole is granted, the board sets the conditions (such as supervision) that the parolee (an offender on parole) must abide by. A parolee is still under sentence, and if he or she does not abide by the parole conditions, the board can cancel parole and have the parolee returned to prison.
If the sentencing court imposes a term of imprisonment but does not set a non-parole period, the offender must serve his or her entire sentence in prison.
When Will a Court Set a Non-Parole Period?
A non-parole period cannot be given for prison sentences of less than one year. Offenders receiving a prison sentence of less than one year must serve their entire sentence in prison.
For prison sentences between one and two years, the court may choose to fix a non-parole period.
For prison sentences longer than two years, the court will normally fix a non-parole period unless the court considers it inappropriate to do so because of the nature of the offence or the criminal history of the offender.
How Long Is a Non-Parole Period?
Generally, there is no set minimum or maximum length for a non-parole period, but it must be at least six months shorter than the sentenced term of imprisonment. For the offence of gross violence, however, the non-parole period must be at least four years, unless a special reason exists.
Factors Influencing Whether an Offender Is Released on Parole
Release on parole is not automatic. The Victorian Adult Parole Board decides whether to release a prisoner on parole once the prisoner has completed their non-parole period. It is difficult for offenders convicted of certain offences, such as the murder of a police officer or a serious violent or a serious sexual offence, to obtain parole.
There is a presumption against parole for offenders who have been sentenced for murder and certain other fatal offences, where the body or remains of the victim have not been located.
What Conditions Apply to an Offender on Parole?
Parolees are still under sentence. They must comply with standard conditions such as supervision, reporting to a parole officer, and restrictions on where they can live. The parole board may attach special conditions to an offender’s parole, such as:
- treatment for medical or psychiatric problems
- personal development programs
- curfews and other restraints on freedom
- random drug and/or alcohol testing.
What Happens If a Parolee Breaches Parole?
If an offender commits further offences while on parole or fails to comply with parole conditions, the parole board may decide to cancel parole.
In addition, it is an offence to breach a term or condition of a parole order. Breach of parole carries a penalty of up to 3 months’ imprisonment, a fine of up to 30 penalty units, or both.
From 20 May 2013, new provisions require the Adult Parole Board to automatically consider cancelling an offender’s parole in particular circumstances, such as when parolees are:
- charged with further offences
- convicted of further offences
Parolees Charged with Further Offences
If a parolee is charged with another offence punishable by imprisonment, the parole board must consider cancelling the offender’s parole. If a parolee is charged with committing a sexual or violent offence while he or she is on parole while under sentence for a similar offence, the parole board must cancel parole unless the board is satisfied that circumstances justify continuing parole.
Parolees Convicted of Further Offences
If a parolee is convicted of committing an offence punishable by imprisonment, the parole board must cancel parole unless the board is satisfied that the circumstances justify continuing parole. If a parolee is convicted of a sexual or violent offence while he or she is on parole while under sentence for a similar offence, the offender’s parole will be cancelled automatically.
Parolees Sentenced to Further Imprisonment
If a parolee is sentenced to another prison sentence while on parole, the offender’s parole is cancelled automatically.
What Happens When Parole Is Cancelled?
When parole is cancelled, the offender is returned to prison to serve all or part of his or her remaining sentence.
Serious Violent and Sexual Offenders
From 1 July 2014, the Adult Parole Board includes a Serious Violent Offender or Sexual Offender Parole division. This division decides whether or not a person sentenced to imprisonment for a sexual offence or a serious violent offence should be released on parole. Parole may only be granted in these circumstances if:
- another division of the Adult Parole Board has recommended that parole be granted and
- the Serious Violent Offender or Sexual Offender Parole division has considered this recommendation. The division may refuse to make an order for parole even if another division of the Adult Parole Board recommends that parole be granted.
Review of the Adult Parole System in Victoria
In 2012, the Council published its Review of the Victorian Adult Parole System with recommendations for reform. The recommendations sought to retain the strengths of the existing parole system while enhancing decision-making guidance for the Adult Parole Board and improving the transparency, consistency, and accuracy of its processes and decisions.
In its Sentencing, Parole Cancellation and Confiscation Orders: Report, the Council explored the relevance of parole cancellation when a person is sentenced for crimes committed while on parole.
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