In a period of less than two and a half years, eleven Victorians have been tragically murdered by parolees and have become victims of Australia’s ‘lenient’ parole boards and poor rehabilitation programs. It is manifest that Australian parole boards fail to effectively provide adequate protection to victims and members of the wider community. Parole is defined as, ‘the release of a prisoner from custody, after the completion of a minimum period of imprisonment determined by a court so that the prisoner may serve the rest of the sentence on conditional liberty’ (Dr Nygh & Butt, 2004). Parole serves to increase the chances of a prisoner’s rehabilitation whilst maintaining public safety. Furthermore reflecting the philosophy of reform rather than retribution in the penal system, however the controversial matter is that often parolees fail to comply with the terms of their release and commit new violent crimes. It is a critical overriding principal that, ‘granting of parole must weigh the potential risk to society of releasing a convicted criminal after a shorter time in prison with the hope that the convict has reformed and is ready to begin the transition to a functioning, even valuable, member of society’ (New World Encyclopedia, 2015).
In 2012-13 Victoria’s rate of parole orders being successfully completed was a mere 57%, evidently the Corrections Act 1986 (VIC) legislation has failed in guiding the parole board to adequately make just and equitable decisions. Similarly, in NSW where the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Amendment Act 2008 (NSW) is followed, it was recorded that 64% of offenders whose parole was revoked due to reoffending also breached the conditions of their parole. Jones C et al conducted a study examining 2793 offenders released on parole and found that within 27 and 39 months of their release 68% had reappeared in court, 64% had been convicted for a new offence and 41% had received a further custodial sentence. Additionally, survival analysis has indicated that 23% of parolees had re-offended within three months of release and 64% had re-offended within two years of release (Bartels, 2013). During 2011-2012, Western Australia, which follows the Sentence Administration Act 2003 (WA), had 312 parole orders cancelled, 38 suspended and a derisory 325 completed successfully. This statistical evidence provides insight into the inadequacy and failure of Australia’s parole boards ensuring just and fair decisions are made. Further highlighting the poor methods and programs in place to rehabilitate prisoners.
Currently each parole board operates individually under a pronounced state or territory’s legislation. As an independent statutory body, the boards’ decisions are liberated from political or bureauvcratic involvement and influence (State Government of Victoria, 2015). ‘Parole serves multiple purposes and parole authorities have an important, if controversial, role to play in the justice system’ (Bartels, 2013). The Corrective Services Act 2006 (QLD) s193 expresses that, ‘a parole board is required to decide whether an applicant will be granted or refused parole.’ The aim of a parole board is to supervise and support the reintegration of offenders into the community. However parole boards seize to support and rehabilitate prisoners successfully. Subsequently, it is paramount the board place a high level of consideration upon the communities safety when releasing an offender into society and provide adequate rehabilitation programs to minimize the risk of recidivism.
The Victorian Department of Justice and Regulation states, ‘…the Adult Parole Board considers the interests of the community, the rights of the victim, the intentions of the sentencing authority and the needs of the offender.’ It is fundamental to the community’s safety that a parole board takes into consideration a…