Skip to Content »

Parole: Burton, Bell and the Parnell RSA……

  • January 17th, 2007
I made parole reform a key objective of my time in Parliament. Much research found no robust evidence that it works for any of its claimed purposes, and it may not even save prison costs.
It is likely to  increase the propensity to reoffend, by pandering to criminals’ high preference for risk. As gamblers, they respond addictively to risk propositions that offer chances of high pay-offs with an uncertain price. Parole is added in to their warped assessment of the low odds of being caught, convicted and sentenced to a meaningful sentence. Parole, unenforced parole conditions, the Parole Board’s dopey respect for unlikely undertakings, and the failure to punish parole breaches all tell criminals that the justice system is run by mugs. Research shows that criminals have exceptionally high self esteem. They back themselves to beat the mugs.
I also found persistent public misconceptions about parole. It is not an essential tool for inducing reasonable behaviour in prison.  The law permits the Board to look only at the safety of the public. It is not a good behaviour remission, nor a reward for remorse. The Board do not hear from prison guards.
Only a small percentage of criminals who breach the trust that was once the key feature of parole are ever recalled, and even fewer serve much of the rest of their sentence. They become eligible for fresh release almost immediately.
The remedies are straightforward. President Clinton’s astonishingly successful criminal justice reforms in 1996 show the way:
  • End all early release parole. Courts above all should be truthful and sentencing must be certain;
  • All repeat and violent offenders should be on post release supervision for a stipulated period, including alcohol prohibition, family support and work conditions if relevant.
  • Strict monitoring during post sentence supervision must show that the system is serious(random checks).
Pending the abolition of early release parole:
  • Restore its status as a privilege not a right;
  • Board must be satisfied of genuine remorse;
  • Board must take account of victim feelings, of community expectations of a price to be paid for crime, and of the effect of any release on judicial control of sentencing. The 2002 law prevents the Board from recognising these factors;
  • No appeals against denial of parole – it is a privilege;
  • No legal aid to support parole applications – it is a privilege;
  • Police and Corrections should regain immediate power to return parolees to custody on discovery of any breach of terms;
  • Court involvement on breach only to hear parolee challenges to the recall reasons, or claims that the breach is trivial, or should otherwise be excused;
  • Parole offences should automatically be treated as serious of their class for sentencing purposes, because it is a breach of trust, and shows the absence of remorse;
  • Publication of full and accurate statistics on parole offending.
There should be no apologies for the reforms. The effect will be to keep the worst of our criminals locked up for much longer, and for some of them the change will mean they stay in prison for life, just as the judge has said they should.
The short term increase in taxpayer cost will be:
  •  offset by the reduction in the numbers of prisoners led into their  offending pattern by the correct judgment that the system is easily suckered by feeble excuses, and rarely enforces the court ordered price for crime
  • justified by the huge reduction in the private costs borne by victims, those who live in fear, people paying for insurance and security precautions.
I get sick of apologists saying the Board is merely doing what the law tells them to do. The Board  know that their conditions are largely meaningless, and even if they were not, Corrections do not enforce them. They will have heard from the disgusted experienced probation officers who contacted me, saying they do not even report many breaches for fear of being bogged in legal procedure. They can look at the evidence of Corrections incompetence and defeat given to the Court in the Bell victim’s lawsuit, thrown out only because of longstanding Crown immunity.
The Parole Board could just accept responsibility and refuse any more doubtful paroles until they know the system has integrity. Employers or building owners would not escape an OSH or Building Act prosecution for repeated injuries from a simply avoidable hazard by saying that it was someone else’s job to warn the victims, when they know the warners only work part time, and often dont bother. A  judge would quickly tell them it was their job to assess the risks they create in the world as they know it to be, not the way it theoretically ought to be.  
The abolition of parole will be worth the taxpayer cost if it results in just one of many changes we can expect, for example if careful parents again let their children walk to and from school, as our parents and grandparents did when serious crime was less than 10% of current levels.



Maybe I am too old. The law can’t shoot straight.
There was only one shot required for Burton.
People say life is precious, and I suppose,
but I just can’t afford his extra leg,


So, what do you think about
last comments ?


i don't think we should make apologies all the time as well.

[…] Stephen Franks says parole’s pointless. He reckons that by (further) lowering the odds of spending a lot of time in jail, the gambling mind of the criminal is even more likely to commit crimes. Also, criminals aren’t serving the sentence they’ve been given. Graeme Edgler explains non-parole periods of imprisonment as the actual punishment, and the maximum sentence provides protection to the community. He says, “The existence of a system of parole means we can keep certain criminals in prison even after their punishment is over, if their release would pose a risk to the community.” […]

Leave your comments:

* Required fields. Your e-mail address will not be published on this site

You can use the following HTML tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>