Author: Mina WassefCriminal Defence Lawyer Mina Wassef at our Western Sydney Office in Parramatta

Parole is integral in the NSW Criminal Justice System. It is administered by the NSW State Parole Authority (SPA) which involves 5 officials.

• A Judge
• NSW Police Force member
• Community Corrections NSW representative
• Two further members who represent the wider community

The hearings are usually held in the Parramatta District Court precinct, at the Sydney West Trial Courts building.

How does parole work?

If a prisoner is released at the end of their sentence without a period of parole, there are no conditions or supervisions attached to their release. When a court hands down a sentence of imprisonment greater than 6 months, it must fix a Non-Parole period, followed by an additional period known as Parole which is usually a term not exceeding one third of the non-parole period in the absence of “special circumstances”.

There are two types of Parole.

1. Court Based Parole

This involves sentences imposed which are 3 years or less. The sentencing Magistrate or Judge will set a non-parole period which allows for the release of the inmate prior to the expiry of the head sentence. The inmate would be subject to standard conditions, and in addition any other conditions which the court imposed at the time of sentencing.
The standard conditions of parole are:

• Not to commit any offence while on parole; and
• To adapt to normal, lawful community life
• To be of good behaviour for the duration of the parole period

Additional conditions may be imposed, such as Drug and Alcohol testing.

2. Parole granted by the Authority.

The State Parole Authority decides which inmates with sentences greater than three years and include a non-parole period will be released. In addition the Authority sets the conditions of release, and makes decisions in relation to how and when Parole can be revoked.

The main considerations the Authority must apply are;

• The interests of the community
• The rights of the victim, the intentions of the sentencing court; and
• The needs of the offender.

Persons on parole are ordinarily supervised by Community Corrections officer who can report breaches to the Parole Authority.

When will the Authority consider Parole?

Usually the Parole Authority will consider an application for Parole 60 days prior to the inmate’s earliest possible release date. The Authority will usually consider the judge’s sentencing remarks, pre release reports provided by Community Corrections NSW. The reports provided by Community Corrections will guide the Authority as to the inmate’s compliance and engagement with supervision, and will make recommendations in favour or against the grant of Parole. The inmate’s criminal history, and subjective material such as psychological and psychiatric reports are also considered.

Breaching Parole

The Authority will consider reports made by Community Corrections of breaching Parole. If the Authority decides to revoke parole, then the offender will be required to return to custody after a warrant is issued.

The Authority has the power to take the following action when a breach is alleged.

1. Take no action
2. Send a warning.
3. Revoke parole.

After one month, a review of the decision is heard by the Authority.

If there is a fresh criminal charge which the parolee is facing, the Authority usually takes no action until the matter is dealt with by the Court, unless there is a finding of guilt.