Parole release authority and re-offending

Full report - Parole release authority and re-offending (pdf, 543Kb)

Release date: 10.30am Monday 29 August, 2016


In the first study of its type ever conducted in Australia, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) has found that offenders released to parole by the State Parole Authority (SPA parolees) are less likely to re-offend than offenders released to parole as a result of a court decision (court-ordered parolees)1.

BOCSAR followed up 822 matched pairs of offenders who served between 18 and 36 months in custody. One member of each pair had been released on parole as a result of a court decision. The other member of the pair had been released on parole as a result of a State Parole Authority decision.

Court-ordered offenders were 19 per cent more likely to re-offend at any point in time compared with SPA parolees. Differences in reoffending favouring SPA parolees were most evident at 24 and 36 months.

These differences held up after controlling for a wide range of factors, including gender, Indigenous status, age, offence, LSI-R risk score, year of release, prior court appearances, prior imprisonment, prior drug use, prior serious violent offending and prior breach of court orders.

The lower rate of re-offending of SPA parolees also held up when adjusted for differences in the time spent on parole by SPA parolees compared with court ordered parolees.

Interestingly, no difference in re-offending was found between SPA parolees and court ordered parolees while both groups were on parole. Significant differences (favouring SPA parolees) emerged only after the parole orders in both groups had expired.

BOCSAR also compared the types of offences committed by SPA parolees compared with court-ordered parolees but found little difference between the groups.

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 02 8346 1100 (please do not call my mobile)
Copies of the report:

1  New South Wales (NSW), Queensland and South Australia have embraced a split system of sentencing in which both courts and the Parole Board play a role in releasing offenders on parole. In NSW, for example, when an offender is sentenced by a court to a term of imprisonment of three years or less, the sentencing court has the option of fixing a non-parole period and specifying the date and conditions of release on parole. At the end of the non-parole period (barring any further offence), the offender is automatically released. When a court imposes a term of imprisonment more than three years, it must also specify a non-parole period but in this case the actual date and conditions of release are determined by the NSW State Parole Authority (SPA). The SPA may release an offender at the end of his or her non-parole period but is not required to do so. In making its decision on the timing and conditions of release, the Board takes into account a range of factors, many of which are not known to the court that imposed the original sentence. One of these factors is an offender’s behaviour while in custody (participation in rehabilitation programs, disciplinary infractions etc.).