A potential contributing factor to this decline was a change in the manner in which prisoners were released during this period. In 2008/09, 66 per cent of prisoners released from prison were discharged through an early release order – otherwise known as parole. This dropped to 34 per cent in the following year. The drop was caused by an increase in applications being denied, coinciding with a change in the Chair of the Prisoner’s Review Board.
All prisoner cohorts were affected by the drop in parole provision, though some cohorts were more acutely affected:
- 45 per cent of maximum security prisoners released in 2008/09 were discharged via parole. In 2009/10 this declined to 4 per cent.
- 57 per cent of Aboriginal prisoners released in 2008/09 were discharged via parole. In 2009/10 this declined to 18 per cent.
- 51 per cent of prisoners with over 10 prior prison admissions released in 2008/10 were discharged via parole. In 2009/10 this declined to 11 per cent.
Prisoners most affected by the decline in parole provision were those with factors that increased their risk of reoffending. Effectively, those most likely to attain parole were those least likely to reoffend.
Yet, despite over a 1000 more parole applications being denied in 2009/10, there were only 190 fewer prisoners released compared to the previous year. Therefore a near equivalent increase in the number of prisoners being released without parole occurred in 2009/10.
The effect of the decline in parole attainment was a small shift in the demographics of all released prisoners. Prisoners at a higher risk of recidivism were less likely to be released in 2009/10 compared to the year before. However these demographic changes were not to the extent that explains the entire decline in recidivism.