R.04 Christmas release

Section 52 of the Parole Act 2002 provides the Chief Executive with the discretion to direct the early release of eligible prisoners; this is commonly referred to as Christmas early releases.

The primary purpose of section 52 of the Parole Act 2002 is to mitigate the risk that prisoners, unable to make contact with service agencies and support networks (including family / whânau support) and to make suitable arrangements for such things as accommodation and employment before the Christmas period (i.e. the period commencing on 15 December in one year and ending on 5 January in the next year), are more likely to re-offend.

Christmas early release criteria

  1. The Chief Executive can direct (pursuant to section 52 of the Parole Act 2002) the early release of prisoners:
    1. who are serving sentences of imprisonment of more than 14 days, and
    2. whose statutory release dates fall within the period commencing on 15 December in one year and ending on 5 January in the next year (relevant prisoners).
  2. Prisoners who meet this criteria may be released on any date that is:
    1. not earlier than 1 December immediately preceding that prisoner's statutory release date
    2. not a non-release day as defined in the Parole Act 2002.

R.04.01 Notice to prisoners

  1. Each year, at least 20 working days prior to the beginning of December, a notice must be issued notifying prisoners of the purpose and criteria of the Christmas early release (refer R.04.Res.01 Notice to all prisoners).
  2. This notice must contain a request to prisoners whose final / statutory release date falls within the period commencing on 15 December in one year and ending on 5 January on the next year, to immediately contact their unit PCO to discuss their post-release plan and any outstanding issues.

R.04.02 Considerations for release

  1. A national circular detailing Christmas early release requirements will be issued by the Deputy National Commissioner Corrections Services at least 20-days prior to 1 December each year.
  2. A CARS report showing all the prisoners eligible for early release is generated by each prison. Prisoners serving a sentence of imprisonment of six months or more will be granted Christmas early release, unless the custodial systems manager (CSM) deems the release inappropriate. This includes, but is not limited to the following reasons:
    1. likely to increase rather than decrease the risk of further offending
    2. adversely impact on public safety between any early release date and the prisoner's statutory release date.
  3. The prison director must determine whether to approve or decline Christmas release to prisoners who:
    1. are serving very short-term sentences. Prisoners serving a sentence of less than six months imprisonment are unlikely to have:
      1. the same need to access service agencies and support networks as a longer term prisoner, and
      2. recognising also the importance of maintaining the integrity of a prisoner's sentence, Christmas early release for such a prisoner will not be granted unless there are particular circumstances warranting such a release.
    2. have circumstances favouring early release, such as, but not limited to the following:
      1. has demonstrated a need to care for a family member(s) during the Christmas period at the proposed post-release residence
      2. has a certified illness or medical problem and the treatment or management of that problem would be facilitated by the prisoner being in the community during the Christmas period
      3. has counselling or educational opportunities available during the Christmas period that would not otherwise be available.
  4. Prior to 15 December the prison must forward to the National Office the details of the prisoners who are eligible to be released early, using either:
    1. R.04.Form.01 Form A-Christmas early release approval - prisoners serving sentence of six months or more.
    2. R.04.Form.02 Form B-Christmas early release approval - prisoners serving sentence of less than six months.
  5. Prison staff must place all documents relating to consideration for early release pursuant to section 52 of the Parole Act 2002, on the individual prisoner files.

R.04.03 List of eligible prisoners

  1. On receipt of the details the Deputy National Commissioner Corrections Services must maintain a list that contains:
    1. the total number of relevant prisoners (by prison)
    2. the total number of relevant prisoners released early (by prison)
    3. each prisoner's offence details
    4. information on any "high profile" prisoners whose release might attract media attention.

R.04.04 Notification of prisoners approved for Christmas release

  1. Corrections Services must forward a report on the Christmas early release to the Minister of Corrections, the Chief Executive and the National Commissioner of Corrections Services as soon as the final numbers have been confirmed. This report must contain:
    1. a list of all eligible prisoners
    2. their offence details, and
    3. information on any "high profile" prisoners whose release might attract media attention.
  2. Where a direction is given for the release of a relevant prisoner under section 52 of the Parole Act 2002, that prisoner is to be released no earlier than 1 December immediately preceding his / her statutory release date unless the Chief Executive, or other manager delegated the power to direct such early releases, specifies an alternative date using his / her discretion.

R.04.05 Prisoner's complaint

  1. Prisoners who are dissatisfied with the outcome of the decision as to whether or not they are granted Christmas early release, may complain directly to an Inspector of Corrections and / or the Office of the Ombudsman.