This study finds evidence that parole is effective in reducing the risk of re-offending in Australia.
The current study sought to address four questions of importance to correctional policy:
1. Does unconditional release increase the risk, speed or seriousness of further offending compared with conditional release?
2. Does unconditional release increase the likelihood of re-imprisonment compared with conditional release?
3. Does less frequent supervision increase the risk, speed or seriousness of further offending compared with more frequent supervision?
4. Does less frequent supervision increase the likelihood of re-imprisonment compared with more frequent supervision?
To answer questions (1) and (2) we compared re-offending rates among two matched cohorts of prisoners released from NSW correctional centres in 2009/10; one of which was released without any requirement for parole supervision and the other of which was released under parole supervision. The offenders in both groups were matched on a wide range of factors that influence the rate of re-offending and/or the rate of re-imprisonment. The results revealed that offenders who received parole supervision upon release from custody took longer to commit a new offence, were less likely to commit a new indictable offence and committed fewer offences than offenders who were released unconditionally into the community. No significant differences were found between the two groups in the average time to commit a new offence that resulted in a prison penalty.
To answer questions (3) and (4) two comparisons were made. Firstly, the re-offending rate of parolees who received more frequent compliance-focused contacts whilst on parole was compared with the re-offending rate of a matched group of parolees who received less frequent compliance-focused contacts. Secondly, the re-offending rate of parolees who received more frequent rehabilitation-focused contacts whilst on parole was compared with the re-offending rate of a matched group of parolees who received less frequent rehabilitation-focused contacts. A similar comparison was made with re-imprisonment as the outcome variable, rather than reconviction. The results of these comparisons show that, after matching on all observed covariates, parolees with a higher than average level of rehabilitation-focused contacts take longer to commit any new offence and record fewer offences within 36 months of being released compared with their counterparts who received less frequent rehabilitation-focused contacts. No similar effect was observed for the compliance-focussed supervision.