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Justice Minister Judith Collins and Acting Corrections Minister Chester Borrows today announced Government plans to reduce unnecessary parole hearings for offenders which will reduce stress for victims of crime.
“Cabinet has agreed to introduce screening of offenders to postpone unnecessary parole hearings where an offender has little chance of release,” Ms Collins said.
“Victims of crime will no longer need to face the very stressful prospect of parole hearings year after year, when an offender is clearly not safe to release into the community, and has made little or no effort at rehabilitation,” said Ms Collins.
Changes to the Parole Act will see the maximum interval between parole hearings extended from one to two years. The maximum postponement period for offenders serving indeterminate sentences, and determinate sentences of ten or more years, will also be extended from three to five years.
“We expect the five year term to be reserved for the most extreme cases, as the current three year term is used only a handful of times each year. Offenders will retain the right to appeal Parole Board decisions and to have their case reviewed,” said Ms Collins.
Mr Borrows says the changes will provide greater flexibility for the board to set hearing dates to align with completion of rehabilitation programmes.
“The changes will also provide strong incentives for prisoners to address their offending behaviour – some may even be able to achieve an earlier parole hearing if they reach certain rehabilitation milestones, or successfully complete programmes.”
The Department of Corrections is strengthening its rehabilitation focus with the introduction of case management systems for all prisoners, and can refer prisoners for an earlier parole hearing if they have made significant progress.
Legislation to bring in the changes will be introduced to Parliament later this year.