What is parole?

Parole is the process used to assess offenders who are serving over two years imprisonment to:

  • Understand their risk on release;
  • Assess whether they can be released if they are eligible; and
  • Work to reduce their risk of harm to people in the community if they are released.

How does parole work?

  • Offenders appear before the Board at regular times during their sentence.
  • The process aims to oversee an offender’s sentence, and help them address their offending to make a positive transition from prison to community.  This can include courses and programmes, as well as counselling.
  • The Board is able to specify relevant activities it expects an offender to complete before the next scheduled parole hearing. That is, a programme for rehabilitation or reintegration to be implemented by the Department of Corrections. This change enables offenders to clearly understand what is expected of them.

How does parole contribute to public safety?

  • Parole allows oversight of an offender’s sentence, to help them understand and address their offending and transition from prison to community. This can include courses and programmes, as well as counselling.
  • Everyone released on parole is given standard release conditions (as are all offenders who are released at the end of their sentence). Standard conditions cover a wide range of areas:
    • reporting to a probation officer with 72 hours.
    • maintaining contact with their probation officer.
    • living at an address agreed by their probation officer.
    • not moving address unless given consent by their probation officer.
    • engaging in employment approved by their probation officer.
    • not associating with anybody forbidden by the probation officer or parole conditions.
    • taking part in rehabilitation and reintegration as directed by the probation officer.

What is a parole eligibility date?

  • Offenders sentenced to more than 2 years imprisonment under the 2002 legislation are eligible for parole after serving a third of their sentence, unless they were given a longer minimum non-parole period by the sentencing court.
  • Offenders sentenced to preventive detention (no specified sentence length) become eligible for parole after serving a minimum period of imprisonment, which is at least five years.
  • Offenders serving less than two years imprisonment do not have a parole eligibility date. They are automatically released when they have served half their sentence.

Does the Board determine the release of all offenders in prison?

No. The Board only assesses offenders serving over two years, with the aim of guiding them into taking responsibility for their offending, and managing themselves and their environment, to not present an undue risk to the community.

If an offender is serving a short-term sentence of two years or less, under the Parole Act 2002 they must be released after serving half of their sentence.  They are not seen by the Board but may be subject to release conditions imposed by the court that sentenced them.

Offenders sentenced under the Parole Act 2002 to a determinate prison term of more than two years (2 years and one day or longer), must be released when they reach their statutory release date (the end of their sentence) if they have not been granted parole before this date. They become eligible for parole after serving one third of their sentence.  If they have reached their statutory release date, the Board's only role is to set conditions for release.

What about offenders sent to prison under the previous legislation (the Criminal Justice Act 1985)?

  • Offenders serving an indeterminate sentence (ie life) become eligible for parole after serving 10 years.
  • Offenders with a minimum non-parole period, become eligible after serving that minimum period.
  • Offenders given more than a 12-month sentence, but not classified as "serious violent offenders”, become eligible after serving one-third of their sentence.
  • Offenders classified as “Serious Violent Offenders”, and sentenced to a fixed-term (determinate) sentence, must be released after serving two thirds of their sentence.

Does anybody serve the full term they are sentenced to?

Yes, some offenders do.
  • Under the Parole Act, offenders serving long-term fixed sentences (more than two years) become eligible to be considered for parole after one third of their sentence but they can serve the full term if not paroled.
  • Offenders who have been convicted of a qualifying sexual or violent offence, and who are deemed to pose a significant and ongoing risk to the safety of the community, can receive preventive detention and may serve longer than their original sentence.

The NZ Parole Board aims to use simple language in its decisions. If there is a phrase you don't understand, check our glossary for an explanation.