At the expiration of a prisoner’s non-parole period, the Board can decide to release the prisoner on parole to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community under strict conditions.
The time that a prisoner spends on parole is normally counted as time served under the sentence. In other words, each day that a prisoner spends in the community on parole is treated as the equivalent to one day in prison.
This means that if the prisoner completes their parole period without parole being cancelled, they will have completed their sentence.
But if a prisoner’s parole is cancelled, the law states that none of the time spent on parole counts toward the sentence unless the Board otherwise directs.
Assume that Joe was released on parole on 1 March 2017. His sentence was due to expire on 1 January 2018.
On 1 August 2017, the Board decides to cancel Joe’s parole. At that point, Joe had been on parole for 5 months and had 5 months remaining on his sentence.
When he arrives back in prison, none of the five months he was on parole will be counted and his sentence will now end in June 2018, rather than January 2018.
But the law gives the Board a discretion to decide whether any of the time Joe was in the community on parole should be counted as time served under their sentence.
This process is called ‘time to count’. Within the prison system, the process is commonly referred to by prisoners as ‘street time’.
Time to count (street time) is determined by the Board after it has cancelled parole on a case-by-case basis.
How is time to count (street time) determined?
There is no need for a prisoner whose parole has been cancelled to write to the Board and request ‘street time’. Rather, a prisoner’s parole cancellation triggers a review by the Board of whether any ‘street time’ should be granted.
Why does the Board grant time to count (street time)?
Time to count (street time) acknowledges the effort that the prisoner has made (e.g. actively engaging in community work), even if they were ultimately unsuccessful in completing parole.
Many prisoners encounter setbacks during their parole, particularly a relapse into drug use. The Board wants to motivate prisoners to persevere with their parole conditions when they encounter such setbacks, and may use time to count as an incentive for minor indiscretions.
When is the Board unlikely to grant time to count (street time)?
If the prisoner’s parole was cancelled because they committed serious offending, then it’s very unlikely that the prisoner will receive any time to count (street time).
Parole conditions are designed to promote positive behaviour (e.g. engagement in counselling) and to detect and deter negative behaviour (e.g. illicit drug use). A prisoner who makes little or no use of the support provided, and demonstrates limited or no effort towards their rehabilitation, may not merit any time to count.
One of the primary considerations for time to count (street time) is the amount of time that the prisoner has spent on parole prior to their parole being cancelled. Rarely would the Board grant time to count (street time) for a prisoner who has served less than three months on parole.