The laws for probation and parole in Australia are complex, and if you find yourself in a situation where you need to understand the laws to maintain your independence you will need the expertise of a criminal defence lawyer to help you stay within the law.
There are different types of probation and parole, so it’s also important to understand what type of sentence you are facing to ensure you make the right decision about your future.
The point of probation and parole is to help the offender to become a responsible and contributing member of our society and to also minimise re-offending.
A society that works needs people who contribute to and respect the rights of others, and probation or parole offers a chance to show how an offender’s life has been turned around.
When an offender is found guilty of a crime, they may be given a community-based sentence.
Some offenders may also be put on probation instead of being sent directly to prison.
This is usually done for first-time offenders, and it can offer a chance for criminals to show that their behaviour has changed for good.
The sentence or probation usually comes with additional education, rehabilitation programs, employment and services designed to aid in personal development.
All of these programs are designed with the goal of helping an offender to become a productive member of our society.
There are several benefits that are typically associated with a person serving their sentence in the community and staying out of a prison. By staying within the community, it is hoped that the offender will develop a greater appreciation of their offending behaviour and thereby become a more responsible member of our community.
Additionally, the offender is often able to give back to the community within which the offence occurred.
Any offence against a citizen of a community is considered by the law to be an act against the entire community.
This is why prosecutors are often employed by the state to prosecute offenders.
Some of the benefits of serving the sentence out in the community instead of a prison include:
- Employment: The offender is able to keep their job in most cases, and this can help decrease the chance of committing the same crime.
- Housing: An offender doesn’t have to uproot themselves and potentially lose their place of residence. This makes getting back on their feet more efficient.
- Family Life: The ability to maintain a consistent family life can contribute to the well-being of the offender, but it also reduces the likelihood of their children growing up in a broken home.
- Morale: An offender may end up going to prison and coming out with negative influences from more nefarious types. By serving the sentence in the community, this situation can often be avoided.
- Cost: The cost of putting a defendant to work in the community is much less than what it would cost to send them to prison. On average, it only costs about $24 per day to manage community members. It’s $292 per day for an offender that is sent to prison.
The Kinds of Probation and Parole
Probation and Parole can come in several different forms.
Each option is designed to keep an eye on the offender, and each method provides options for penalising offenders who break their probation.
Some offenders may be given community-based orders where they end up serving the community in some way.
Intensive Correction Orders (ICO) may require the offender to report daily or wear a device to track their movement.
Conditional suspended imprisonment orders (a suspended sentence) may allow the defendant to go free provided they meet certain terms. If an offender violates the terms, they will be sent immediately to prison.
A pre-sentence report maybe prepared prior to sentencing in order for the Court to impose a probation type penalty within the community.
Conditions of Probation and Parole
The conditions of probation and parole may vary depending on the severity of the crime.
Probation is an order that is based on the needs of the community. The offender is released into the community, but there are certain restrictions that are imposed.
The actual length of probation and parole may extend anywhere from months to years.
Typical conditions include the requirement that the offender does not commit further crime.
They also may have to participate in programs that are designed to help them with their issues. In almost all cases, the offender will not be allowed to leave the country unless they first obtain permission from their parole officer.
Additionally, the offender must inform their probation officer of any significant changes in their life, including job changes, address changes and a change of phone number.
When an offender is put on probation, there are normally steps they must undertake to ensure they are complying with probation.
They require supervision, a program to deal with the behaviour and community work.
Supervision doesn’t require a parole officer to follow the offender around in most cases.
Typically, it means that the offender has to arrange regular meetings with their parole officer to ensure that the offender is changing their ways and staying away from criminal activity. They also meet to ensure that the parts of their sentence are being fulfilled.
A program is designed to ensure that the offender is taking the right steps to deal with the initial behaviour that led to the criminal activity.
In these programs, the offender may have to undergo some treatment for substance abuse, counselling for anger or violence and educational training. The offender may also be put into a work program to increase the chances of the offender obtaining a job.
Suitability for Probation
Not all offenders will be eligible for probation and or parole.
If the court deems that treatment is a better use of the community’s money, then a person who is need of rehabilitation may also be a suitable candidate.
The goal of these types of sentences is to ensure that the offenders are able to improve their lives and get better. People who have drug, alcohol or gambling addictions are typically good options.
One unique aspect of this type of sentencing is that the individual must give consent to be placed in a program.
The court can’t mandate this type of sentencing, but the alternative is typically prison.
When an offender is sentenced to full time imprisonment, the court must make a non-parole period (unless the Court orders a fixed term of imprisonment). The non-parole period is the actual time an offender has to be in gaol. After the non-parole period expires, the offender is then released on parole or make an application to be released on parole (this will depend on the overall sentence the offender receives).
During the parole period, the offender must comply with conditions of parole. If these conditions are breached eg by committing further offences, the offender can be sent back to gaol to serve out the remainder of their parole period.
Remedies for Parole Violation
An offender should immediately contact their parole officer if there appears to be any reason why they might not be able to keep their agreements.
When an offender fails to report to the parole officer within a business day, there may be a warrant issued for their arrest. When the offender is arrested, there are no second chances. The offender will be sent directly to prison.
However, depending on the situation, the parole authority is not required to send the offender to prison.
The following are remedies that a parole officer may take against someone who breaches parole:
- Officers may decide to take no action
- Officers may send a warning letter
- A meeting may be required to explain the reason for the breach
- Parole may be revoked, and a warrant will be issued for the offender’s arrest.
It is important to follow all procedures that are required in the event that parole is breached. Just because an offender breaches parole, it doesn’t mean they will necessarily go to prison.
A parole officer has the right to choose the path that is taken, and the offender can always seek legal advice to better represent them in a hearing.
It is important to remember that the goal of parole is to provide a punishment that benefits the offender and the community by ensuring the offender does not re-offend.
Failing to adhere to the terms of the parole has serious consequences and should this happen, one should seek the assistance of a criminal denfence lawyer immediately.