Parole

Contributed by Lorana Bartels and Caroline Doyle and current to September 2018.

For most sentences that are at least one year long, a detainee may apply to be released on parole at the end of their non-parole period (for example, if they have a sentence of 8 years and their non-parole is 5 years, they will become eligible to apply for parole after 5 years. If this is granted, they will serve the last 3 years of their sentence in the community). Detainees should speak to their caseworker about their application for parole. If parole is granted, the detainee will be released to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community. Decisions on parole in the ACT are made by the Sentence Administration Board.

Part 7.2 of the Crimes (Sentence Administration) Act 2005 governs the making of parole orders. It requires offenders to apply to the Board, in writing, for consideration to be released on parole. This can be done no earlier than six months before their eligibility date.

If the offender believes that they have exceptional circumstances, they may make a special application for parole at any time. These applications must include a written submission about the exceptional circumstances.

If the Board accepts an application for parole, it must conduct an inquiry into the application. The Board will invite submissions from relevant parties and call for reports on the offender. These reports commonly include reports from a case manager, prison staff and any other relevant report, such as psychological and drug and alcohol assessments.

Victims of the offender's offences who are registered on the Victims Register are also contacted and invited to write a submission to the Board in relation to the possible release of the prisoner.

If the Board considers at the inquiry that the documents it has do not justify paroling the offender, it must set a time for a hearing into the offender's application for parole and give notice of the hearing. The offender is then invited to tell the Board if they wish to either appear at the hearing (with legal representation if desired) or make a submission to the Board about being paroled. If the offender does not respond to the invitation for the hearing or fails to make a submission within the given timeframe the Board is taken to have made a decision to refuse parole to the offender.

It is the practice of the Board to inform the offender of the issues of concern to the Board. For example, these issues may include such things as:
  • failure to address offending behaviour
  • the need for further alcohol and other drug counselling
  • unsuitable, unconfirmed or no post-release plans/accommodation
  • the risk of re-offending
  • the need for psychological/psychiatric assessment in relation to risk, diagnosis and/or treatment
  • poor behaviour in custody
  • past failures on conditional liberty (for example, bail)
  • the need to complete programs or
  • outstanding criminal charges.
After the Board conducts the hearing it is required to either make a parole order for the offender or refuse to make a parole order for the offender.

For more information see the Sentencing section and the information in Community corrections.

On Release

Throughcare

The Extended Throughcare program aims to support the successful reintegration of offenders after release from prison, thereby seeking to reduce re-offending. This program provides support to offenders returning to the community after their custodial sentence. Participation in the program is voluntary and available to offenders exiting the AMC with or without further supervision orders. The Throughcare Unit's engagement with an offender commences pre-release and continues for a period of 12 months post-release with the support of community organisations. The program provides links to Centrelink, health, housing, outreach programs, drug and alcohol programs, as well as engaging the offender's family in the process. The financial and social benefits of the program were evaluated in 2017.

Housing

ACT Housing provides services for individuals exiting the AMC and other corrections programs. These programs assist to ensure that individuals exiting prison receive adequate support and stable housing on release, thereby assisting their rehabilitation, and reducing homelessness.

Social Security for People Leaving Prison

Released detainees may be eligible for a one-off crisis payment from Centrelink. To be eligible for this payment, they must: have been in prison for 14 days or more, claim the payment within seven days of being released, be entitled to a Centrelink pension or benefit and be in 'severe financial hardship.' Released detainees can also be eligible for an advanced payment of their social security benefit. Detainees can make a claim for social security benefit payments up to three weeks before their release date, however the money will not be paid into their account until they are released.

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