The manner in which Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) interprets and records the success of prisoners released on parole is seriously flawed and cannot be relied on, according to a senior parole board member.
Parole Board Queensland Deputy President Peter Shields said he did not know if Queensland’s parole system worked, citing a flawed method for collection and publishing of data recorded by QCS.
In a revealing presentation for Queensland Law Society’s Modern Advocate Lecture series, Mr Shields recently lifted the lid on many secrets that remain locked behind prison doors, including the success of the state’s current parole system.
“The question everyone asks me (in my role as PBQ deputy president) … is does parole work? The short answer is I do not know,” Mr Shields said.
“I do not know because the way in which an individual’s parole order is considered by QCS to have been successfully completed or not … (is) open to various interpretations.”
In the four years since the board was reconstituted by the State Government, its annual reports tabled in Parliament have revealed it has released on average 2311 inmates on parole, with an average of 4200 prisoners being returned to custody during the same period.
Mr Shields said: “Over the last four financial years, QCS has reported in their annual report that an average of 74.8 percent of persons supervised successfully complete their supervision orders.
“The disparity between the data produced by (PBQ), that it returns almost twice as many prisoners as it releases, and the successful completion data produced by QCS, was highlighted in submissions to the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council (QSAC) in 2019.”
The submission, authored by Mr Shields, was in response to a QSAC reference to investigate ‘Community-based Sentencing Orders, Imprisonment and Parole Options’.
In his recent presentation, Mr Shields said he accepted that QCS was calculating successful parole completion rates that applied to Australia’s national counting rules.
“But the current rules clearly lead to a perverse result,” he said. “By way of illustration, imagine yesterday two armed robbers are sentenced to 12 months (jail with) immediate parole release because of the significant time they spent (in custody) on remand.
“Today they take their shotguns to a bank and commit a violent armed robbery during which one of the parolees is shot and killed and the other is arrested and remanded in custody.
“As the offence of armed robbery must be dealt with on indictment, the sole remaining armed robber will not be sentenced until after his parole order has expired.
“In these circumstances both parolees will be recorded as having successfully completed their parole orders.”
As a result of PBQ’s submission, QSAC in its final report on ‘Community-based Sentencing Orders, Imprisonment and Parole Options’ recommended the State Government conduct further evaluation and research regarding the effectiveness of court-ordered parole, including the assessment of statistics in relation to recidivism and completion rates.
Read the QSAC report.