These FAQs are intended to provide simple and accessible answers to common questions that prisoners, victims and other members of the community may ask. The answers do not seek to be comprehensive and should be read in light of their purpose. More detailed information on these topics may be read in the Parole Manual.
- Why shouldn't all prisoners just serve their full sentence in prison?
- Who is responsible for deciding if a prisoner should be considered for parole?
- Does release on parole reduce the court's sentence?
- What does the Adult Parole Board take into account when considering whether and when to release a prisoner on parole?
- Where can a prisoner live when on parole?
- Must prisoners complete programs in prison to address their offending behaviour before they can be released on parole?
- I am a victim; how do I make a submission and register to receive information about the offender?
- How is a prisoner supervised and managed while on parole?
- In what circumstances will the Adult Parole Board cancel parole?
- What happens if the Adult Parole Board cancels parole? When does a prisoner get time to count?
- Can the Adult Parole Board guarantee that a prisoner on parole will not reoffend?
- How can I find out if a prisoner has applied for or been released on parole?
Why shouldn't all prisoners just serve their full sentence in prison?
Prison is a very controlled and structured environment. Except for a very small number of prisoners who are serving life sentences with no non-parole period, almost every prisoner will at some point return to the very different stresses and temptations of life in the community?
Long experience around the world has shown that if a prisoner is released to full freedom in the community, they may reoffend. The risk of reoffending is typically highest in the weeks and months following release from prison.
Even if the prisoner is motivated to make positive changes and wants to live a life free of drugs and crime, they can find when they leave prison that the people they knew and the relationships they had on the outside have changed. It can be hard to find a job. It can be difficult to establish positive new relationships, structures and routines.
When a former prisoner runs into setbacks and stresses like these, it can erode their motivation, which can lead to a slide back into drug use and crime.
Parole can help to reduce the risk of reoffending by providing supervision and support during this risky period of transition.
Who is responsible for deciding if a prisoner should be considered for parole?
A prisoner can only be considered for release on parole if the sentencing court has imposed a non-parole period. The non-parole period determines if a prisoner is eligible to be released on parole and when.
If the prisoner is an adult who is serving a sentence with a non-parole period for a Victorian offence, the Adult Parole Board is responsible for deciding whether and when the prisoner should be released on parole in accordance with the sentence imposed by the court. The prisoner will only be considered if they apply for parole. Prison staff will help the prisoner by letting them know when and how to apply.
If the offender is a young person who is serving a sentence in a youth justice centre, the Youth Parole Board is responsible for deciding if they should be released on parole.
If the prisoner is an adult who is serving a sentence in a Victorian prison for a Federal offence, the Federal Attorney-General is responsible for deciding whether they should be released on parole.
Does release on parole reduce the court's sentence?
No. The Parole Board can only release a prisoner on parole if the court has imposed a prison sentence with a non-parole period as part of the sentence.
The non-parole period is the minimum period that the court thinks that the offender must serve in prison. The court's sentence gives the Board the power to consider the release of the prisoner on parole for all or part of the period between the end of the non-parole period and the end of the sentence.
What does the Adult Parole Board take into account when considering whether and when to release a prisoner on parole?
The Board will receive a wide range of information about the prisoner.
The Board receives a detailed Parole Suitability Assessment report from Community Correctional Services. This report will be based on an interview with the prisoner and an analysis of a wide range of information including:
- information about the offence or offences which led to the prison sentence (from the judge’s reasons for sentence or police summaries of the offence)
- any victim impact statements from the court proceedings
- the prisoner’s behaviour in prison (including incident reports and drug test results)
- formal risk assessments
- performance in relevant programs in prison (reports from clinicians who conducted the programs)
- criminal history
- previous performance on parole or other supervised orders
- mental health assessments
- Victoria Police and Corrections Victoria intelligence reports
- home assessment reports (which may include interviews with, and background checks on, the people who the prisoner plans to live with on parole).
As well as receiving the Parole Suitability Assessment report, the Board will also have before it all of the source material listed above.
The Board may also have:
- correspondence from the prisoner and or his or her family or lawyers
- correspondence from any victims of the offender
- if the victim is registered, a formal submission to the Board from the victim.
Where can a prisoner live when on parole?
The purpose of parole is to promote the reintegration of prisoners back into the community to minimise the risk that the prisoner will commit further offences.
Victorian law requires the Board to treat the safety and protection of the community as the most important consideration when it is deciding whether to release a prisoner on parole.
Housing is a very important part of managing a person’s risk while they are on parole. Every case is different and will depend on matters such as the nature and level of the prisoner’s risk and the length of time they will be on parole. Each case is decided on its own facts, but generally speaking the factors that the Board will look at include:
- Is there enough room for the prisoner (e.g. will they just be sleeping on a couch, or will they have their own space)?
- How long is the prisoner able to stay there?
- Who will the prisoner be living with? How well do they know the prisoner? Will they be supportive of the prisoner? Are they likely to exert a positive or negative influence on the prisoner? Do they have any reservations about the prisoner living with them? Is there any risk that they may have been put under undue pressure to agree to let the prisoner live with them? There may be concerns if the other people who live there or who visit regularly have a history of committing offences or abusing drugs. There may also be concerns if there is a history of family violence between the prisoner and the people living there. Depending on the circumstances, there may also be concerns if children live there or visit regularly.
- Where is the property located? Will the person be going back into exactly the same environment (for example: surrounded by the same friends and associates) as when the person committed the crime that led to their prison sentence (this may be significant if, for example, the offending was committed in the company of others)? Is the property close to where a victim of the crime lives or works? Is the property close to services or is it in a remote location that would make attendance at parole appointments difficult (particularly if the person is not permitted to drive a car).
In many cases, a parole officer will visit the property to inspect it and to interview the people who the prisoner would be living with in order for the parole officer to make their recommendations to the Board.
The attitude of the people who the prisoner would be living with will be a factor that the Board considers, but in each case the Board will make its own assessment of the risks based on all of the information it has. For example, if the person who the prisoner would be living with has previously been protected by a family violence intervention order in relation to the prisoner, the Board might decide that the accommodation is not suitable, even if the person now says that they want the prisoner to live with them.
Must prisoners complete programs in prison to address their offending behaviour before they can be released on parole?
The safety and protection of the community is the most important consideration for the Board when it decides whether to release a prisoner on parole.
Well designed and well run programs that address the way of thinking that led to a prisoner committing an offence are a very important way to reduce the risk that the prisoner will commit similar offences when they eventually return to the community.
Prisoners are assessed for their suitability to do programs. If a prisoner is assessed as suitable, ordinarily the Board would not release them on parole unless they successfully complete the program. If this means that the prisoner has to do things like agree to transfer to a different prison where the program is available, the Board expects the prisoner to co-operate. The Board may not consider a prisoner for parole if the prisoner has not completed a required program, even though this means that the prisoner will not be able to be released on their earliest eligibility date for parole.
The Board recognises that there can be situations where a prisoner is unable to do a program due to factors beyond the prisoner’s control. The Board will look at each case on its merits and at whether the risks can be managed in other ways, always having regard to the paramount consideration of the safety and protection of the community. In rare cases, the Board may decide that it is appropriate to release a prisoner on parole even though the prisoner has not been able to complete a relevant program in prison.
I am a victim; how do I make a submission and register to receive information about the offender?
People who have been the victim of a prisoner can apply to be included on the Victims Register. A victim who is included on that register has a right to make a written submission to the Board. The Board must consider that submission before deciding whether to release the prisoner on parole. For more information, see Victims Register – register to receive information about a prisoner/offender
A victim who is not on the Victims Register can write to the Board. The Board will consider any correspondence it receives regarding a prisoner.
If a victim writes to the Board asking the Board to refuse to release a prisoner on parole, the Board will take that request into account.
However, the Board must act in accordance with its legal role and responsibilities and must also consider all other relevant factors. For example, the Board cannot deny parole because a victim considers that the sentence imposed by the court was too light and that the prisoner has not been punished enough.
The Board’s role is to decide whether a supported and supervised transition from prison is more in the community interest than straight release at the end of the prisoner’s sentence, having regard to the Board’s paramount consideration of the safety and protection of the community. If the Board decides that parole is appropriate, it considers what conditions should be imposed and how they should be managed.
Almost all prisoners will be released back into the community at some stage, whether they are granted parole or not. If the Board denies parole, the prisoner will not have a supervised and supported transition back into the community. This can affect their risk of reoffending.
This means that there can be cases when the Board decides to release a prisoner on parole despite a victim submission opposing parole.
For more information, see victims of crime – make a submission and have your say
How is a prisoner supervised and managed while on parole?
Ordinarily the specialist parole officer who interviewed the prisoner in prison and who prepared the Parole Suitability Assessment report for the Board to consider when deciding whether to release the prisoner on parole will be the same parole officer who is responsible for supervising the prisoner when they are released on parole.
Before the prisoner is released on parole, they will be given a copy of their parole order, which will contain a set of standard conditions (such as that they must not break any law, they must attend appointments with a parole officer and must not leave Victoria without written permission). Their parole order will usually contain additional conditions based on their particular case. These can include conditions that the prisoner must not drink alcohol, must attend for drug testing, must do community work, must stay home at night between specified hours, must not go to certain places or contact certain people and must be electronically monitored.
The prisoner will be told when and where they have to report to their parole officer after leaving prison. Most parole orders contain an intensive parole period, which commonly lasts for the first three to four months. During the intensive parole period, the prisoner will have to attend supervision appointments with the parole officer twice a week. The prisoner will also usually have to do community work and to take frequent drug tests during the intensive parole period.
If the prisoner successfully completes the intensive parole period and is progressing well in their transition, some of the conditions can ease. However, at any stage the conditions can be increased if the prisoner’s compliance deteriorates or there are signs of an increase in risk. In such circumstances, the Board can require the prisoner to appear before it so that the Board can question the prisoner and, if appropriate, to warn the prisoner about non-compliance or to cancel the parole.
During parole, the parole officer managing a prisoner on parole will report to the Board any information they consider the Board should be aware of with a recommendation. The Board will review and consider the reports it receives quickly.
In what circumstances will the Adult Parole Board cancel parole?
The Board has a very broad power to cancel parole.
The Board may cancel parole whenever it considers that the risk of the prisoner remaining on parole is greater than the benefit to the community of the prisoner continuing on parole.
In most cases, this will be because the prisoner has breached one or more of their parole conditions. But it is possible for the Board to cancel parole whenever the Board considers that the risk has become too high, even if it is not clear that the prisoner has breached any condition. (For example: a prisoner on parole for serious violent offences and with a long history of violent offending is present at a shooting incident. Although the police are still investigating the incident and it is not clear what role the prisoner had in the incident and charges have not yet been laid, depending on all of the circumstances, the Board may consider that the risk is too high for the prisoner to remain on parole and may cancel parole pending the outcome of the investigation).
Breach of parole conditions will not automatically lead to cancellation. Depending on the level of risk and all of the circumstances, a warning or other response may be more appropriate. A serious or persistent failure to comply with conditions can result in cancellation if the prisoner’s behaviour shows that there is no benefit to the community in them remaining on parole.
What happens if the Adult Parole Board cancels parole? When does a prisoner get time to count?
If the Board cancels parole, the Board will issue a warrant authorising police to arrest the prisoner and to take them back to prison. The prisoner will be given a copy of the Board’s decision and a short statement of the reasons why the Board cancelled parole.
By law, when parole is cancelled all of the time that the prisoner was on parole is added to their original end date.
Despite the starting position that none of the time on parole counts if parole is cancelled, the law gives the Board a power to decide to count a part or all of the time on parole as time served. It is not necessary for the prisoner to apply to the Board to consider time to count: the Board will consider it in every case when parole is cancelled.
In the weeks after the prisoner has been taken back into custody, a parole officer (ordinarily the same parole officer who was responsible for supervising the prisoner on parole) will interview the prisoner about their performance on parole and the reasons why parole was cancelled, and will prepare a Return to Custody report for the Board.
The Return to Custody report provides information to the Board about the prisoner’s performance, level of insight into the cancellation and prospects for release on parole again.
When the Board receives the Return to Custody report, the Board will decide whether any of the time on parole should count as time served and will notify the prisoner of its decision in writing.
Each case is decided on its particular facts. The Board recognises that many prisoners face challenges and barriers when they are transitioning back into the community. They may have setbacks and stresses in their personal relationships, in obtaining and keeping a job, and in avoiding drugs. The Board’s approach to time to count is to encourage prisoners to use the supports that are available to them on parole and to keep trying when they experience setbacks.
If it is clear to the Board that a prisoner made an effort to make the most of parole by productively engaging in things such as supervision, programs and community work, the Board is likely to count a period of time on parole toward the sentence.
By contrast, if the information the Board has indicates that the prisoner made little or no effort to engage in rehabilitation, avoided commitments such as drug testing or community work, the Board is less likely to grant a substantial amount of time to count.
Depending on how much time remains on the sentence, the prisoner may apply to be released on parole again. The application process is very similar to the process for applying for parole for the first time, except that when the Board considers an application for re-parole it will pay particular attention to how much insight the prisoner has into the reasons why the first parole was cancelled and to how things would be different if the Board was to release the prisoner on parole again.
Can the Adult Parole Board guarantee that a prisoner on parole will not reoffend?
Many prisoners have a long history of committing offences. Some are very likely to reoffend at some point in the future, whether they are released on parole or are released straight into the community at the end of their sentence.
No parole board can provide an absolute guarantee that a prisoner on parole will not reoffend. What the Victorian Adult Parole Board does is to reduce the likelihood that a prisoner will reoffend. The Board does this by:
- providing an incentive to do programs in prison that address the factors that lead to offending
- providing targeted support (such as drug and alcohol treatment, psychological counselling and practical advice) to prisoners during their transition from prison back into the community
- enabling parole officers to supervise prisoners during that transition and imposing conditions that control things such as where the prisoner lives and who they can associate with, as well as subjecting them to drug testing and electronic monitoring
- increasing, modifying or reducing the conditions during that transition period depending on the prisoner’s progress
- cancelling parole and returning the person to prison if the risks have become too high.
How can I find out if a prisoner has applied for or been released on parole?
Victorian law prohibits the disclosure of information by the Board about individual prisoners other than in very limited circumstances.
Two situations where the Board can provide information about whether a prisoner has applied for or been released on parole are:
- If you are a victim of the prisoner’s offending, you may be able to register with the Victim Support Agency. If you are a registered victim, the Board is permitted to provide certain information to you about the prisoner. This includes information about when the prisoner will be released on parole. For more information, please see the victims section of the Board’s website.
- If you are a relative, partner or friend of the prisoner and the prisoner signs a written authority to exchange information, the Board may provide you with information about the prisoner’s parole application and release.