The first parole system was established at the Norfolk Island penal colony in the mid-nineteenth century. Prisoners were able to earn ‘marks’ as an incentive for work and good behaviour. Once they had accumulated enough marks they could be released from prison on a ‘ticket of leave’, which could be revoked if the person ‘associated with notoriously bad characters, led an idle or dissolute life, or had no visible means of support’.
The idea of a board responsible for deciding whether a prisoner had earned his or her release and for deciding whether to return a released prisoner back to prison evolved a little later.
The first such board in Victoria was established by the Indeterminate Sentences Act 1907, which created the Indeterminate Sentences Board.
In 1957, the indeterminate sentences scheme was replaced by the current system of parole in which a court imposes a prison sentence of a specific length and sets a non-parole period as part of the sentence. The Adult Parole Board was established to decide whether, and at what point between the expiry of the non-parole period and the end of the sentence, the prisoner should be released on parole.
The Victorian Adult Parole Board was created by the Penal Reform Act 1956 and first sat on 3 July 1957 at the Old Treasury Building in Spring Street, Melbourne.
In 2005, the Government established the first scheme for supervising serious sex offenders after they completed their sentence. Under that scheme, which was later expanded in 2009, the Board was given certain functions in relation to that supervision. See post sentence supervision and detention.
In 2011, the Government commissioned a report from Professor James Ogloff and the Office of Correctional Services Review to examine a series of murders committed by parolees. In the same year, the Government commissioned a broader review of the adult parole system by the Sentencing Advisory Council.
Shortly after those reviews were published but before their recommendations had been fully implemented, in September 2012 a further murder was committed by a parolee (Adrian Bayley). The Government commissioned a further review, by retired High Court judge Ian Callinan.
The three reviews resulted in major reforms to the Victorian adult parole system, including the enactment in legislation of the safety and protection of the community as the paramount consideration for all parole decisions, the introduction of a parole application system, the creation of the Serious Violent Offender and Sexual Offender Division of the Board and stricter provisions regarding cancellation of parole.
The Victorian Auditor General’s Office published an audit of the parole system in February 2016. It found that parole reform (changes to the law and practice relating to the parole system since 2013) has resulted in a ‘better informed and resourced Adult Parole Board, better trained and supported parole officers and better information sharing between the Adult Parole Board and Victoria Police regarding parolee behaviour’.