Release from prison
What conditions can be imposed on me and for how long?
If you’re sentenced to 12 months or less, the sentencing judge can impose the “standard” release conditions, or standard release conditions plus some special release conditions. The standard conditions are set out in the Parole Act 2002 – they include things like having to report to your probation officer, and telling your probation officer if you’re going to be moving to a new address. “Special” conditions are aimed at reducing the chance that you’ll re-offend and at helping to rehabilitate you – for example, if you’ve been involved with gangs in the past you might be banned from being at any gang headquarters or house.
If you’re sentenced to a prison term of between one and up to and including two years, then the standard conditions will automatically apply to you after you’re released. Release conditions can apply for up to 6 months after your full sentence would have ended (called the “sentence expiry date”); unless the judge specifically orders that they won’t apply. So for these sentences it’s expected that you’ll have at least the standard conditions until your sentence expiry date and possibly up to 6 months after your sentence expiry date. If, for example, you’re sentenced to two years in prison, your “sentence expiry date” will be the two year date. You’ll serve one year in prison, and you’ll then be released and serve at least one year (and a maximum of 18 months) on standard release conditions.
If you’re sentenced to between one and two years, the judge can impose special conditions. These will also last at least until your sentence expiry date and possibly for up to 6 months after your sentence expiry date, unless the judge sets a shorter period.
If you’re sentenced to more than two years in prison, the sentencing judge can’t impose release conditions. Instead, if you’re released by the Parole Board, you’ll have to comply with a number of parole conditions. The Parole Board must impose standard release conditions for at least 6 months. They can also impose special conditions for at least 6 months. Release conditions can last for up to 6 months past your full prison sentence date. If you don’t get parole and are released on your sentence expiry date then you’ll still have 6 months of release conditions.
What are standard release conditions?
These are the standard release conditions:
- You must report to the probation officer nearest to where you’re living, within 72 hours (three days) after your release.
- You must report to your probation officer whenever they tell you to.
- You must tell your probation officer your address and the details of any job you have.
- You can’t move to a new address in another probation area without getting written approval from your probation officer first.
- If your probation officer allows you to move to another probation area, you must report to the probation officer in the new probation area within 72 hours (three days) after you arrive there.
- If you want to move to somewhere else within your current probation area, you have to give your probation officer a reasonable period of notice before you move. You also have to let them know your new address.
- Your probation officer can stop you living at a particular address, or working at a particular job or workplace, or mixing with certain people.
- Your probation officer can order you to take part in rehabilitation and reintegration assessments.
What are special release conditions?
Special conditions are extra conditions that can be ordered to:
- reduce the risk of you re-offending
- help your rehabilitation and your reintegration into the community
- deal with any reasonable concerns that the victims of your offending have.
Special conditions can be imposed for no more than six months after the date when your full sentence ends (called the “statutory release date”).
Special release conditions might include the following:
- There may be restrictions on where you can live or work.
- You may be banned from going to certain places at certain times.
- You may be required to participate in a programme to reduce the risk of you re-offending (like a drug treatment programme or anger-management counselling).
- You may not be allowed to possess or consume alcohol or other drugs. You may be subjected to random drug testing and this could include having to wear an electronic device that detects alcohol or drugs.
- You may be banned from mixing with certain people, or certain groups (such as a gang).
- It may be a condition of your parole that you take particular medicines. Since you can’t be forced to take medication, this means that if you don’t agree to take the medicine you won’t get early parole. If you stop taking the medicine during your parole, you could be recalled to prison (see below “Recall to prison from parole”).
- You may be monitored electronically to check that you’re obeying your release conditions (see below).
- You may be subject to residential restrictions.
- You may be subject to a curfew.
- You might not be allowed to contact the victim of your offending.
- Your money or your income from working might be controlled.
- You might be directed to return to the Board for a monitoring hearing.
What is electronic monitoring?
Electronic monitoring means an electronic bracelet is attached to your ankle. It’s one of the special release conditions that can be imposed on you. Electronic monitoring can be used to keep track of where you are (called “residential restrictions”) or in some cases if you have a special release condition not to use alcohol or drugs.
You can be monitored electronically for up to 12 months or for as long as the standard release conditions apply to you (see above “What conditions can be imposed one me and for how long?”), whichever of those two periods is shorter.
Residential restrictions can be full or only partial. For example, you could have a full-time restriction requiring you to live at your parole address, or it could be a partial restriction that requires you to be there only at night.
What are residential restrictions?
Residential restrictions are where you re directed to stay at a specified residence. Before the Board can impose this condition it must request a report from the Department of Corrections on the suitability of the address. Every occupant of the address has to be informed of the nature of your offending both past and current. The residents have to also consent to you living there.
What is a monitoring hearing?
The Board may require you to return during the first 12 months following release for a monitoring hearing. This is where the Board check as to how well you are coping in complying with the release conditions that they have imposed on you. Your Probation Officer will provide the Board with a report on your progress following release.
Can my release conditions be changed or cancelled?
Yes. If you have release conditions imposed by the Board then you or your probation officer can apply to the Board to have some, or all, of your release conditions changed (“varied”) or cancelled (“discharged”).
In your application you should state whether you want to appear in person before the Board to state your case.
If the probation officer is applying for a variation or discharge, they may be able to temporarily suspend the condition (put it on hold) until the Board hearing.