Important information booklets published for prisoners and families

The Parole Board has launched two information booklets for family and friends of prisoners going through parole and prisoners who choose to represent themselves.

The first booklet, entitled Information for family and friends of prisoners having a parole review, provides a useful go-to document for anyone wishing to support someone in prison going through parole.

It sets out who is involved in parole reviews, how to find a lawyer, how a family or friend might attend a parole oral hearing and also provides sign-posts to information and services that may offer other support and advice, for example helplines, information about licences and further reading about the parole process.

The second leaflet provides information and support for prisoners who opt to represent themselves during the parole process rather than seeking a lawyer, or, for whatever reason have been unable to appoint a lawyer. The Board always strongly recommends that prisoners should seek a professional legal representative to advise and represent them in their parole review.

However, there are a significant number of prisoners who are unrepresented. This new guide gives valuable advice on preparing for a parole review. Whilst it is aimed at prisoners, it may also prove helpful to anyone supporting a prisoner.

When can a prisoner apply for parole?

A prisoner serving a determinate sentence prisoner (not a life sentence or IPP) can apply for parole up to six months before their Parole Eligibility Date (PED). When their Parole Eligibility Date is will depend entirely on the length of sentence they were given in court. It will not be earlier than the half way point of their sentence.

How does a prisoner apply for parole?

A prisoner should be given an application form, around six months prior to their PED, asking whether they wish to be considered for release. If the prisoner does wish to be released subject to parole then they should complete and submit this application. If they need help with this application then their personal officer or prison parole clerk may be able to help them.

What happens then?

Once the application has been submitted then the prison will compile a file on the prisoner. This file is called the ‘dossier’ .This will include information about the crimes committed, the prisoner’s time in prison and their plans for release.

Once the file is complete, the prisoner will have the opportunity to read it and make a written contribution. This part of the dossier is called ‘the prisoner’s representations’. They should ask their solicitor for help with this. Following this process three members of parole board, often called ‘the panel’, will meet to review it and discuss the case. The prisoner cannot attend this meeting.

The parole board will consider the possibility of the prisoner committing further offences upon release and will discuss the potential risk to the public if parole is granted.

When will the prisoner receive the Parole Board’s decision?

It can take around six months for the whole process to be dealt with and for the parole board to make a decision. Once a decision has been made the prisoner will usually be told within a few days. The prisoner should receive the decision in writing along with the reasons for it.

When will the prisoner be released once parole is granted?

If the prisoner’s application for parole is granted then they will be released on their Parole Eligibility Date (PED). If their PED has passed because their initial application was refused then they should be released at the earliest opportunity.

What happens if parole is not granted?

If parole is refused, sometimes called a ‘knock back’, then the prisoner should speak to their solicitor to see if there are any grounds in the refusal that can be challenged. If it is not possible to challenge the decision then the prisoner will usually have to wait a year before they can apply again. The decision can only be challenged if information that should have been in the dossier was missing, if the correct procedure was not followed or if the reasons given for the ‘knock back’ were not good enough. The decision cannot be challenged purely because the prisoner disagrees with it.

Can the victim of the crime stop a prisoner being released?

The parole board has to take into account the views of the victim about the prisoner’s release. However it would be very rare for the victim to be a part of the release decision. This is because the victim does not have access to information about the prisoner’s time in prison, how they have addressed their offending behaviour and how they might have changed.

Scotland

If your loved one is serving a sentence in Scotland, please visit the Parole Board for Scotland’s website.