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Parole Fact Sheet (October 2002) Introduction

Parole Fact Sheet (October 2002) Introduction

The Parole Act 2002 allows offenders serving sentences of more than two years to be considered by the New Zealand Parole Board for release into the community under the supervision of a Probation Officer of the Department of Corrections' Community Probation Service. This is called parole.

The Sentencing Act 2002 and Parole Act 2002 together establish the length of time an offender sentenced to imprisonment must serve before he or she becomes eligible for release on parole.

The possibility of release on parole acts as an incentive for offenders to participate in interventions targeting the causes of their offending. It also provides for them to be released from custody and returned to the community under conditions and terms to guide their behaviour over the remaining term of their sentence.

Obtaining release on parole is not automatic. Offenders eligible for parole are considered at hearings by the New Zealand Parole Board.

In deciding whether to grant release, the Board is required to consider whether the offender poses an undue risk to the safety of the community or any person or class of persons, having regard to:

· the support and supervision available to the offender following release; and · the public interest in the reintegration of the offender into society as a law-abiding citizen.

If the Board is not satisfied in respect of these matters, it may decline to release the offender on parole. The offender will then remain in custody until next eligible to be considered for parole or, if the Board continues to decline release on parole, until the completion of his or her sentence.

The New Zealand Parole Board also considers offenders for their suitability to serve their sentence or part of their sentence on home detention. A separate fact sheet on home detention is available.

Previous legislation: New Zealand has had provisions for remission of sentence and release on parole for many years. The Parole Act 2002 supersedes the parole provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1985.

Offenders who were sentenced under the Criminal Justice Act 1985, and are still serving their sentences are affected as follows:

· offenders serving a sentence of more than one year must still be released after serving two-thirds of the sentence and are eligible to be considered for parole after one-third of the sentence; · offenders serving a sentence for a serious violent offence will still be ineligible for release until two-thirds of the sentence has been served (or after the expiry of a minimum period of imprisonment, if one was imposed by the court); · certain high-risk offenders serving finite sentences can be held until near the end of their sentence; · all offenders eligible for parole will be dealt with under the New Zealand Parole Board hearing procedures.

New Zealand Parole Board The New Zealand Parole Board is an independent statutory body, created under the Parole Act 2002, which considers the cases of all offenders eligible for parole and home detention. The Board also considers applications for compassionate release, and the recalling to prison of offenders granted parole or home detention who are deemed to pose an undue risk to the community.

The Board has around 20 members - some are judges and some are people appointed from the community; they are appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Attorney-General. The members consider cases in panels of three or sometimes more. The chairperson of the Board is a current or former High Court judge, and panel convenors are current or former District Court judges. The New Zealand Parole Board's panels serve the following regions:

· Northern (covering Auckland, Mt Eden, Mt Eden Women's, Auckland Central Remand Prison, Waikeria, Tongariro/Rangipo and Ohura prisons); · Central (covering Hawke's Bay, New Plymouth, Wanganui, Manawatu, Rimutaka, Arohata and Wellington prisons); · Southern (covering Christchurch, Christchurch Women's, Rolleston, Dunedin and Invercargill prisons).

The Board decides:

· if parole is to be granted to eligible offenders serving prison sentences (including sentences of life imprisonment and preventive detention); · if eligible offenders may serve all or part of their sentences on home detention; · whether an offender who has been released should be recalled to prison to continue serving his or her sentence; · conditions for offenders being granted parole and home detention; · conditions for offenders being released at the end of their sentence.

Previous parole authority Prior to the Parole Act 2002, the Parole Board (which considered offenders serving sentences of seven years or more who were eligible for parole and home detention) and 17 District Prisons Boards (which considered offenders serving sentences of between one and seven years who were eligible for parole and home detention) operated under the Criminal Justice Act 1985.

Eligibility for parole The criteria for determining parole eligibility for offenders sentenced after 30 June 2002 is set out in the Parole Act 2002.

All offenders serving determinate (fixed term) sentences of more than two years are eligible for consideration for parole after serving one-third of their sentence, unless the court has imposed a minimum non-parole period.

Offenders are generally considered for parole once a year, but a postponement order may be made where the Board is satisfied that, in the absence of a significant change in the offender's circumstances, the offender will not be suitable for release at the time when he or she is next due to be considered for parole. Postponement orders can be made for up to three years for offenders sentenced to life imprisonment or preventive detention, or for up to two years for offenders serving other sentences.

Offenders can be detained until the end of their sentences. The following table sets out offenders' eligibility for parole and statutory release dates. Note: an offender is deemed to have been serving the sentence during any time spent in pre-sentence detention (e.g. in custody on remand).
Parole eligibility
(for offenders sentenced under the Sentencing Act 2002)
Sentence Parole eligibility Release
24 months or less Not eligible for parole Released after serving one-half of sentence, on conditions set by the court
More than 24 months Eligible for parole after serving one-third of sentence (unless a longer minimum non-parole period is imposed) Released at sentence expiry date (if not granted parole before then)
Preventive detention Eligible for parole after serving a minimum period of imprisonment set by the court (minimum term for which is five years) Release date and conditions set by New Zealand Parole Board
Life imprisonment Normally eligible for parole after serving a minimum period of imprisonment set by the court. (minimum term for which is ten years) Release date and conditions set by New Zealand Parole Board
Standard conditions of release When an offender is released on parole standard conditions are imposed which he or she must comply with. These include such things as:

· reporting in person to a Probation Officer within 72 hours of being released; · not living at an address at which the Probation Officer has directed the offender not to reside; and · not working in an occupation in which the Probation Officer has directed the offender not to engage in.

These conditions apply for at least six months following the offender's release from prison on parole.

An offender released on parole from a sentence of preventive detention or life imprisonment is subject to standard conditions for the rest of his or her life (unless discharged by the New Zealand Parole Board).

If the offender is released on his/her statutory release date (i.e. has been detained until the expiry of the sentence), standard conditions will apply for a period of six months after release. Special conditions The New Zealand Parole Board may also set special conditions that are intended to:

· reduce the risk of re-offending by the offender; · facilitate or promote the rehabilitation and reintegration of the offender; or · provide for the reasonable concerns of victims of the offender.

The Board may only impose special conditions that are designed to reduce the risk of re-offending. For example, it is usual for offenders convicted of child sex offences and who are being released to be restricted from having access to children without the approval of the Probation Officer. Information used by the Board to inform its decision Reports The Board is required to make decisions on the basis of all the relevant material that is available at the time. Most commonly it considers reports received from the Department of Corrections' Public Prisons Service, Psychological Service and Community Probation Service staff.

Submissions Anyone can make a written submission to the Board. However, apart from the offender, only Police and victims listed on the Victim Notification Register will be notified of when a hearing is due and invited to make submissions.

(Victims of certain offences can apply to be listed on the Victim Notification Register, a confidential list that enables registered victims to receive information about certain offenders. Police verify applicants' eligibility to be on the Register.) A separate fact sheet on the Victim Notification Register is available.

Victims* will be notified by the Board of their opportunities to participate in the hearings process, and have the right, in all cases, to provide written and oral submissions.

Where a decision can be made on the information the Board receives, including any submissions, the Board may hold an unattended hearing, meaning usually only Board members take part. In the case of an unattended hearing, the offender and any victims* will be given the opportunity to have an interview with a member of the Board before the panel makes a decision.

When making decisions relating to the release of an offender, in every case the paramount consideration for the Board is the safety of the community.
* applies only to victims listed on the Victim Notification Register There is more related information on the Department of Corrections’ web site: http://www.corrections.govt.nz

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