If an offender is sentenced to prison with a non-parole period, it is important to begin to think about taking steps to prepare for parole long before making an application for parole.
Think about how they ended up in prison and the effect that their behaviour had on others
Being in prison is an important time to think about what led to the crime and the punishment. Prisoners should ask themselves:
- What choices did I make?
- What other paths could I have taken to avoid committing the offence?
- Who did I harm by committing the offence?
- Was there a direct victim?
- What about the indirect victims and the broader community?
- How has my offending affected my family and the people close to me?
- What can I do to ensure that I can avoid ending up in similar situations and to make better choices in future?
As part of the parole assessment process, a parole officer will interview the prisoner. The interview will include questions similar to these. It is important to have given genuine thought to these issues, because a summary of the interview will be part of the information that the Board takes into account when deciding whether to grant parole.
Participate in assessments and complete relevant programs
During their sentence, prisoners are required to participate in assessments for programs. It is important to co-operate and participate in these assessments. Depending on the outcome of the assessment, the prisoners can be required to participate in programs, such as violence intervention programs, sexual offence programs or drug and alcohol programs.
Programs are generally run as group programs.
A prisoner may need to move to a different unit or prison to be able to do a program. This means that it is important for the prisoner to avoid getting involved in incidents or behaviour that could prevent them from being transferred (for example, because of their security classification) or from being accepted into the program.
There can be situations where, even though a prisoner wants to do a program, they cannot because of factors beyond their control. For example, if the prisoner is being held in protection or cannot do a program because of language barriers, intellectual disability, or waiting lists for the program.
The Board consults with Corrections Victoria to ensure that in such cases, wherever possible, a program can be provided; but Corrections Victoria are responsible for the placement of prisoners and providing the programs.
If a prisoner has been assessed as needing a program but is not able to do the program in prison because of factors beyond his or her control, the Board will take that into account when it makes its decision.
The Board’s most important consideration is always the safety and protection of the community. The Board would only consider releasing a prisoner who has not completed a recommended program on parole if it is satisfied that the prisoner’s risks can be reduced in other ways, such as through relevant parole conditions.
Prepare for a law abiding life after prison
Aside from programs that focus on issues that are specific to offending (such as violence intervention programs), prisons also provide a range of educational programs and opportunities.
Prisoners should make the most of these opportunities to learn skills and to get qualifications that could help in finding a job after leaving prison.
There are also programs that provide other life skills, such as parenting or relationship programs. These programs can help with issues such as reconnecting with family.
Taking specific steps in prison can help to set things up so that the prisoner can establish a more stable life on release. This can make it easier to get parole and to successfully complete parole.
Behave positively in prison – including not using drugs
The Board will consider how the prisoner has behaved in prison.
If the prisoner has been violent or aggressive or has persistently broken rules in prison it is hard for the Board to be confident that they are safe to release or that they will comply with parole.
There are strong links between drug abuse and other offending. Prisoners are subject to random and targeted drug tests. The Board understands that it is difficult to overcome a drug addiction. If a prisoner tests positive to illegal drugs, or to prescription drugs without having a prescription, the Board will consider all of the circumstances, but may well decide that it is not confident that the prisoner is ready to avoid the temptation to use drugs in the community. If this is the case, the Board will be concerned about the risk to community safety and protection.
Seek suitable accommodation
In the Parole Application Form, prisoners can nominate an address at which they would like to live on parole. Corrections Victoria’s Community Correctional Services (CCS) will review the address to determine if the accommodation is appropriate and suitable. CCS then make a recommendation to the Board as part of the Parole Suitability Assessment.
There are no fixed factors that define what comprises appropriate and suitable accommodation, and each circumstance will be considered on merit. Community safety is the paramount consideration for the Board. The accommodation should support the prisoner’s transition into the community and should minimise the risks of reoffending. For example, if the prisoner proposes to live with a person who has a history of using drugs and committing offences, the Board is likely to reject the proposal. If a prisoner has a history of family violence, the Board may also reject a proposal to live with a person who has been a victim of family violence or who has had an intervention order against them.
Prisoners should think carefully about the address they nominate on the Parole Application Form. If a nominated address is not accepted, the Board may defer the prisoner’s parole application until the prisoner can find a different address.
For some types of accommodation, it is not possible for the prisoner to be able to book a bed or a room without a firm parole date. In such cases, if based on all other factors parole is appropriate, the Board may grant parole subject to confirmed accommodation. This means that the Board will grant a date for release on parole, but if for any reason the accommodation turns out not to be available, the Board will defer the prisoner’s release until suitable accommodation is found.