What does parole mean?

Sentences of imprisonment of over six months are usually split into a non-parole period and a parole period during which they may be released from custody. 

  • If an inmate is released from prison after the non-parole period expires but before the end of the total sentence, they are "released to parole".
  • The main purpose of parole is to allow offenders to have a period of structured supervision on release from prison to reduce their risk of reoffending and protect community safety. 
  • Offenders must comply with strict conditions while they are on parole. If they fail to do so, their parole may be revoked.

Non-parole periods

A non-parole period is the minimum time that an offender must spend in prison before they are eligible for release to parole.

  • The court must fix a non-parole period that is at least three-quarters of the term of the sentence. This rule applies unless there are 'special circumstances' for setting a non-parole period that is less than three-quarters of the term of the sentence.

How does an offender get released to parole?

  • If an offender receives a total sentence (parole and non-parole period together) of three years or less, they are automatically released when the non-parole period expires, unless the State Parole Authority (SPA) decides to revoke the automatic release. This is called statutory parole.
  • If the offender is given a total sentence (parole and non-parole period together) of longer than three years, SPA will decide whether they should be released on parole and when. SPA can only release an offender on parole if it is in the interests of community safety.  Registered victims have the right to make victim impact statements when SPA is making its decision.

Standard non-parole periods

Certain specified serious offences have standard non-parole periods set in legislation. 

  • The standard non-parole period is regarded as a reference point for the judge when determining the sentence.
  • It indicates an appropriate sentence for an offence in the middle range of seriousness.
  • A longer or shorter non-parole period may still be set in cases where aggravating and mitigating circumstances apply, or where there are other special circumstances, provided the court records the reasons.
Last updated:

17 Nov 2022

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