Last updated 2 September 2019

The first step in understanding a person’s sentence and eligibility for parole is to obtain a copy of their sentence calculation sheet. Every incarcerated person is entitled to access their sentence calculation sheet. It may also be necessary to obtain the sentencing remarks from the sentencing court.

If there is an error, Legal Aid Queensland may be able to assist.

The only basis on which people in prison who have been sentenced can be released from prison before their full-time date is on parole. Parole is granted subject to the conditions set out in a parole order. The person is still under sentence and, if someone breaches the terms of their parole, they can be returned to custody. Any time they have served on parole prior to the breach is counted as time served under their sentence. Life-sentenced prisoners remain under sentence and subject to parole conditions for the rest of their lives. If a person is found to be a dangerous sexual offender, they can be detained beyond their full sentence if the Supreme Court finds that they are an unacceptable risk to the community.

Parole orders can include restrictions on a parolee’s movements. A person on parole may be directed to remain at a stated place for stated periods, wear a stated device or to permit the installation of any device or equipment at the place where the parolee resides (s 200A Corrective Services Act 2006 (Qld) (Corrective Services Act)). Section 200A also allows for the location of the prisoner to be monitored.

The parolee cannot leave the state without permission and cannot travel overseas except in exceptional circumstances for compassionate reasons. Parole conditions are listed in s 200 of the Corrective Services Act and further conditions may be placed on the relevant order, including electronic monitoring. The consumption of alcohol is often prohibited. A person on parole may also be obliged to participate in a community-based rehabilitative program under the terms of their order. They must report regularly to a parole officer and notify community corrections of any change of address or employment. A parole board can amend or remove a condition of a parole order.

Decisions about releasing a prisoner on parole are made by the Parole Board of Queensland (PBQ).

The Minister for Corrective Services may issue guidelines to the PBQ in relation to performing its functions. The current guidelines are available from QCS. These guidelines require QPB to:

  • give the highest priority to the safety of the community
  • consider whether there is an unacceptable risk to the community if the prisoner is released on parole, and whether the risk would be greater if the prisoner does not spend a period of time on parole
  • assess suitability factors including:
    • criminal history and patterns of offending
    • likelihood of further offences
    • whether the person has been convicted of a serious sexual or serious violent offence
    • recommendations of sentencing court
    • cooperation with police and prison authorities
    • risk assessment reports
    • compliance with previous grants of parole
    • supports in the community
    • completion of programs.
  • consider further information including:
    • length of time in prison
    • length of time in low custody or residential accommodation
    • negative institutional behaviour
    • intelligence information
    • length of time on a work order
    • potential parole conditions to enhance supervision and ensure compliance
    • transitional, residential and release plans
    • efforts to undertake rehabilitation opportunities.

The ministerial guidelines also state the following:

  • The PBQ is required to give procedural fairness (also known as natural justice), meaning they must let a person know the main factors and material they are relying on if they are going to refuse an application for parole.
  • The PBQ may also place an electronic monitoring devise on a person as a condition of their parole.
  • For sex offenders and serious violent offenders, the PBQ must consider whether to restrict access to websites, technology, applications or tools and any internet dating sites. People under or likely to come under the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offences) Act 2003 (Qld) may not be eligible for parole.

After receiving an application for parole, sentence management requests a home assessment and a copy of the application are sent to the parole board. The board must either grant or refuse a parole application within 120 days of receiving it. However, the board may decide to defer a decision until they obtain further information (e.g. a psychiatric evaluation). If the board defers the decision, the timeframe for making a decision becomes 150 days (s 193(3) Corrective Services Act). However, if the board fails to make a decision within 120 days (or 150 days if deferred), it can continue to consider the application.

If a board refuses an application, they must give the applicant written reasons for the refusal (s 193(5) Corrective Services Act), and they must set a date not more than six months after the refusal when they will consider a fresh application (s 193(5A) Corrective Services Act).

The responsibility for making a timely application for parole lies with the person in prison. Application forms should be available in the prison. People who have literacy or language problems should be provided with assistance, either by staff or by the Prisoners’ Legal Service.

Parole process

The following information has been adapted from the Prisoners’ Legal Service factsheet Parole Application Process.

First time application

A person can submit a parole application six months before their parole eligibility date.

Parole previously refused

If a person has previously had an application refused, they can reapply when advised by PBQ.

The maximum time they will have to wait after a parole refusal is six months, or 12 months if they are serving a life sentence.

Parole cancelled

If a person’s parole has been cancelled, they can submit a new application straight away.

To apply for parole, a person should give a Form 29—Parole Application and a Form 176—Accommodation Risk Assessment Request to sentence management.

Accommodation Risk Assessment

An assessment will be done about whether your nominated address is suitable.

A report will be written by Probation and Parole about this address for PBQ.

Parole Interview

A person in prison will be interviewed by QCS about their parole plans.

A person in prison can prepare for the interview by completing a Form 308—Prisoner Submission for Parole.

This form is to help to prepare for the questions asked in the interview. The form is not provided to PBQ, unless they ask for it.

After an interview, QCS will write a report that is provided to PBQ to help them make a decision about parole. This report is called a Parole Board Assessment Report.

Once PBQ have received the accommodation risk assessment, and the parole board assessment report, they will consider an application. If they consider that they need more information, such as a relapse prevention plan, they will write a letter explaining what they need.

The Parole Board Queensland considers not to grant parole

If PBQ are considering not granting parole, they will write a letter to the person in prison explaining their concerns about release.

A person in prison will have 14 days from when they receive this letter to make submissions to PBQ and state clearly why parole should be granted. They can ask for an extension if they need more time.

If someone receives a letter from PBQ considering not granting bail, it is very important that they write back to PBQ addressing each of the concerns the board raised.

Generally, PBQ must decide whether to grant parole within four months (120 days) of receiving a parole application. The board may decide within five months (150 days) if they need more information. For example, if they request a psychiatric opinion about risk to the community.

Parole is refused

If PBQ refuses a parole application, they must give a written notice of the refusal and set a date when the person can reapply. A person can also request a statement of reasons from PBQ within 28 days from when the person in prison receives notice of the refusal.

Incarcerated people in Queensland are not entitled to legal representation when appearing before PBQ. The applicant may apply to appear personally or apply to have an agent appear on their behalf before PBQ. Current practice is that only a handful of applications to appear are granted every year.

Types of parole

Exceptional circumstances parole

Exceptional circumstances parole (s 176 Corrective Services Act) is unusual but available in limited situations. A person may apply on the approved form to a parole board for an exceptional circumstances parole order at any time during their sentence, even before their parole eligibility date. The circumstances have to be serious or extreme and need to have come about after the sentencing process. If serious or extreme circumstances were considered by the sentencing court, they will not form a basis for exceptional circumstances parole.

The explanatory notes to the Corrective Services Act provide two non-exhaustive examples of exceptional circumstances:

  • an incarcerated person who develops a terminal illness
  • an incarcerated person who is the sole carer of a spouse who contracts a chronic disease requiring constant attention.

Parole boards very rarely exercise this discretionary power. In making an application for exceptional circumstances parole, it is important to provide all relevant supporting evidence such as medical certificates, a letter of the doctor’s prognosis in relation to any illness and evidence of proposed living arrangements and support networks.

Court ordered parole

People sentenced to three years or less will be automatically released on the parole date set by the court, without needing to apply for parole. Court-ordered parole is subject to the conditions listed in s 200 of the Corrective Services Act.

Parole board applications

People must apply to PBQ for a parole decision in the following circumstances:

  • sentenced for longer than three years
  • sentenced after 28 August 2006 for less than three years but the imprisonment includes a term for a serious violent offence or a sexual offence
  • subject to a court-ordered parole order that has subsequently been cancelled or suspended under the Corrective Services Act.

Parole eligibility date

An eligibility date is the date on which a person is eligible to be considered for parole and can make a parole application, which may be refused or granted by the parole board. Eligibility dates are generally set by the court (or 50% of the sentence) or:

  • for serious violent offence 80% or 15 years
  • for life (unless later date set by court):
    • 15 years
    • for repeat child sex offence 20 years
    • for murder of police officer 25 years
    • for multiple murders 30 years.

Breach, suspension and cancellation

Parole Board Queensland may amend or suspend a parole order if they reasonably believe that the person on parole:

  • has failed to follow a condition of their parole order
  • presents a serious and immediate risk of harm to another person
  • presents an unacceptable risk of committing an offence
  • is preparing to leave the state without permission.

The following information has been adapted from Breaches of Parole published by Prisoners’ Legal Service.

The Parole Board Queensland will generally make three decisions during the breach of parole process. The first two decisions happen quickly. The third decision takes more time and is only made once you are given the chance to have your say.

Decision 1

A PBQ member can urgently suspend a parole order without telling the person on parole. An arrest warrant is then issued.

Decision 2

The full PBQ must reconsider the urgent parole suspension within two business days. The PBQ must decide whether to suspend the parole order or release the person back into the community. If PBQ suspends a parole order, they must write to the person, saying why their parole was suspended and asking for an explanation of the breach, which must be provided within 21 days.

Decision 3

The PBQ must consider the written submissions and make a new decision. The PBQ can decide to grant, suspend or cancel the parole order. There is no time frame for this decision.

If a person on parole commits an offence whilst on parole for which they are sentenced to another term of imprisonment, their parole is automatically cancelled, even if the parole order has expired by the time they are sentenced. However, time spent on parole before they committed the further offence counts as time served.

Early discharge

The chief executive may grant up to seven days early release to a prisoner who has served at least half of their period of imprisonment (s 110 Corrective Services Act). This will normally allow people to catch timely transport where alternative transport options are unavailable on the scheduled release day.