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Significant changes to Queensland’s Parole System

Significant positive changes have recently been made to the parole system in Queensland as a result of the “Sofronoff Report” published in December 2016. In particular, the parole application process has been simplified to facilitate the way in which prisoners apply for parole and make representations to the Parole Board.

What are the changes?
In our view, there are three key changes:

1. Prisoners no longer need to submit detailed or comprehensive parole applications

Previously, prisoners were encouraged to prepare and submit relapse prevention plans discussing their strategies to avoid reoffending in future. They would also prepare release plans and collect other supporting material, including letters from family members and professional support letters.

Now, prisoners can apply for parole by lodging two, one page forms:
• A Form 29 parole application, in which they are asked to provide the address for where they plan to live and the name of a sponsor; and
• A Form 176 Accommodation Risk Assessment.

Prisoners can choose to provide supporting documents up until a decision is made on their application, such as letters of support from family, professional support agencies or potential employers. While it is always a good idea for a prisoner to think through and explain their plans for employment, accommodation and how they will manage their parole conditions, we do not recommend prisoners submit relapse prevention plans without first seeking appropriate advice.

2. The Parole Board have less time to decide an application

Another change is the timeframe by which the Parole Board must decide whether to approve or decline a prisoner’s parole application. Previously, the Parole Board had 6 to 7 months to decide an application.

The timeframe has now been reduced so that the Parole Board have 4 to 5 months to make a decision from when the application is received. In reality, the Parole Board frequently make decisions outside this timeframe.

3. Prisoners can be invited to attend a hearing directly before the Parole Board

While the Parole Board have always had discretion to invite prisoners to attend a private hearing about their parole applications, this power was rarely exercised. Instead, prisoners were limited to writing to the Parole Board and explaining why they should be granted parole release.

The Parole Board has recently chosen to interview multiple prisoners, usually at the preliminary refusal stage. Additionally, some prisoners have been granted a hearing at their own request. The hearings generally take between 15 to 30 minutes. While this is a limited timeframe to advance a case for parole release, we consider this an encouraging development, particularly for prisoners who may experience difficulties in explaining writing why they should be released.

While these changes have made it easier to apply for parole, many prisoners still face challenges in gaining parole release. Our parole team at Fisher Dore can represent prisoners in a parole application process and are available to consult with prisoners and/or their loved ones.

Caitlin White


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