Dangers in some Victorian Government parole proposals

Changes proposed for the state’s parole system threaten to make the community less safe, Liberty Victoria warned today.

“We strongly agree with some proposals for Parole reform while there are others that we firmly oppose,” said Liberty President Jane Dixon SC. “We take issue with the premise that community safety is to be achieved through refusing a greater number of applicants for parole. This will result in those prisoners serving longer periods of imprisonment and consequently having a shorter period of supervision on parole.”

She said this approach failed to acknowledge both the harmful effects of long-term jail and the need for proper supervision if offenders were to successfully return to the community. 

“Prisoners and the community share the need for rehabilitation and reintegration. It is our view that the community does not have an interest in prisoners being exposed to longer sentences of imprisonment unless they present a very significant risk of re-offending.”

“Research overwhelmingly demonstrates that supervised and supported release of prisoners on parole is substantially safer for the community, and substantially more effective in prisoners’ rehabilitation and reintegration, than sudden and unsupervised release at the end of a sentence.”  

If implemented, a recommendation to raise the threshold for parole would create an unrealistically high hurdle and drastically cut the number of prisoners granted parole.

“Although this may appease the immediate anxieties of the public about offenders being on parole, fewer grants of parole would be detrimental to community safety in the long term.” 

She said that while the Government’s concern about parole is understandable in light of recent high profile cases the preferred approach was to properly support the administration of parole as well as expanding the pool of well trained Correctional staff for supervision of offenders.

Liberty is hopeful that funding will be forthcoming for an overhaul of the administration of Adult Parole but warns that reforms should look to retaining the well established benefits of the adult parole system while modernising and improving efficiencies.

For comment please contact Liberty Victoria President, Jane Dixon SC or Stewart Bayles.