Once a prisoner in the NT becomes eligible, they can apply to the Parole Board of the Northern Territory, which then assesses whether they should be released, whether parole should be denied, or whether the decision should be deferred so that more information can be obtained. The Parole Act 1971 governs these decisions.
What is parole?
Parole is the conditional release of a prisoner from prison or detention before the full term of their sentence to serve the rest of their time living in the community under supervision.
A prisoner may be released once they have reached the end of their non-parole period. This is a period set by the court when it delivers its sentence.
When a person is released on parole, they must abide by conditions and agree to be supervised by the Department of Corrections.
In the NT, when a court sentences a person to a term of more than 12 months imprisonment that is not suspended in whole or in part, it must impose a non-parole period. This must not be less than 50% of the duration of the term of imprisonment.
In the NT, some offences carry mandatory minimum non-parole periods. For example, a person found guilty of murder must serve at least 20 years in prison before they can become eligible for release (Sentencing Act 1995, section 53A).
Certain sexual offences and drug offences carry a mandatory minimum non-parole period of 70% of the term that is imposed.
Applying for parole
A prisoner can apply for parole eight months before they become eligible for release. A Corrections officer will then start working with the prisoner to prepare a release plan. The application will be considered two months before the non-parole period ends. If the application is refused, the prisoner can reapply at any time but must show that there has been a change in circumstances since the last application.
How is parole decided?
When deciding whether to grant parole to a prisoner, the Board considers a range of matters including the safety of the community, the rights of victims and the prisoner’s circumstances, including their attitude to the offending, their insight into its causes and their release plans including proposed accommodation and employment.
There are eight standard conditions.
- That the person must be of good behaviour and not commit another offence;
- That the person shall be supervised by a Corrections Officer and obey their reasonable directions;
- That the person shall report to the Corrections Offices as directed and be available for interviews as directed;
- That the person shall not leave the NT without written permission;
- That the person must live at an agreed address and notify the Corrections Officer of any intention to move;
- That the person shall enter into employment as agreed with the Corrections Officer and notify them of any intention to change employment;
- That the person must not contact persons specified by the Corrections Officer;
- That the person must not frequent places specified by the Corrections Officer.
Additional conditions may also be set depending on the individual situation. These may include not consuming alcohol, being subject to a curfew, or wearing an electronic monitoring device.
If a person breaches the terms of their parole, the Board may do any of the following:
- Issue them with a warning;
- Impose new conditions;
- Revoke parole.
If parole is revoked, the person will be arrested and brought before a court. If the court is satisfied that the person’s parole has been revoked, it will commit them to prison to serve the part of the term that has not been served. This means the person will have to serve the part of their sentence that was outstanding when they were released. The time they have spent in the community will not be counted as time served.
If a person breaches their parole by committing another offence and a term of imprisonment is imposed for the new offence, the court must commit the person to prison to serve the part of the term that has not been served.
Submissions from the public
In some cases, when the Parole Board is considering an application, it may invite members of the public to make submissions on the matter, including victims and – where the offender is an Aboriginal person – representatives of their community.
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