The Parole Act 2002 specifies how and when offenders are released from prison. It also sets up the New Zealand Parole Board whose main functions are to make decisions about the release of offenders on parole and to set release conditions for offenders released on parole or at the end of their sentence.
Under the Act, most offenders sentenced to a determinate (time-limited) sentence of more than two years are eligible (but not entitled) for release on parole after serving one-third of their sentence. Sentencing Judges can impose longer minimum periods of imprisonment under section 86 of the Sentencing Act 2002.
Principles that guide parole being granted
The paramount consideration of the Parole Board, when making decisions about the release of any offender, is the safety of the community. When assessing risk, the Board must consider both the likelihood of further offending and the nature and seriousness of any likely offending.
Other principles that must guide the Board’s decisions include:
- offenders must not be detained any longer than is consistent with the safety of the community
- offenders must not be subject to release conditions that are more onerous, or last longer, than is consistent with the safety of the community
- offenders must be given information about decisions that concern them, and be told how they can participate in decision-making that directly concerns them
- the rights of victims are upheld, and victims submissions and any restorative justice outcomes are given due weight
- decisions must be made on the basis of all the relevant information that is available to the Board (including from Corrections Officers, Corrections psychologists and Probation Officers who are involved with the offender).
Once conditions of release are set by the Parole Board, it becomes the responsibility of Corrections through community probation staff to manage the offender in the community. Corrections staff also provide information about prisoners to help the Parole Board reach decisions about possible release.