the pros and cons of parole and the extent of its application in australia

The Pros and Cons of Parole and the Extent of its Application in Australia

Introduction

 The use of parole in criminal justice is a matter that has come to be very controversial in the recent past owing to the general failure of the government and the judicial systems to provide any tangible proof of whether or not this approach at punishing law offenders is appropriate or not.  The usability and therefore appropriateness of any method of administering justice to law offenders ought to proved to be useful and most likely even universally acceptable throughout the jurisdictions in order to be successfully applied. In other circumstances, there has to be statistical evidence that the approach is achieving what it is intended for. The essence of all criminal punishment is to have offenders made to change their way of life and get reintegrated into the community for a restart of their lives (Chappell, 2000). But even above that is the need to protect the general public from the acts of criminology that such people are likely to continue to mete on it were they to be let free. Therefore, it is only fair that a clear balance is reached between the need to protect the public from criminal elements and the need for convicted criminals to reform and get back to normal life. This need for moderation forms the main subject matter for this paper; which particularly discusses the pros and cons of using parole in criminal justice; and assesses the extent to which this country has used the system – whether it has been over-utilized, underutilized, or if there has been a good balance.

The Parole Approach to Criminal Justice

            Owing to the greater need there has been for reforms in the criminal justice system in the country, the need for an appropriate method to punish criminals and other law offenders for offences committed has often been there (Lanham, 2006). This has been occasioned by the general feeling that sentencing law offenders to serve prison terms sometimes just makes them more hardened and so more likely to commit more crimes once they get the opportunity. There has also been a feeling that prisons are becoming too expensive to run and so alternative ways of punishment ought to be sought. Parole has been fronted as one of the alternatives, whereby selected prisoners who have served part of their prison terms are allowed to serve the remaining term out of prison upon commitment to adhere to some form of predetermined rules (Chappell, 2000). In the event the offender fails to honor his/her commitment to adhere to the conditions of the parole, one is obliged to be sent back to prison again.  The use and applicability of this system has varied across states in the country, and many opposing views have been given regarding its suitability and effectiveness.

Pros of Parole

            The most commonly talked of advantage of parole is that it eases congestion in prisons. Australian prisons have at one time been crowded to levels that have caused alarm. Congestion is a problem which has been linked to other negative effects like the risk of health pandemics due to having too many people from different places and with different health records staying together for extended period s of time. There have been times in the past when prisoners have gone to prisons healthy only to come out with different infections, all because of the crowding in prisons (Regoli, 2009). Overcrowding in prisons also causes a lot of administrative problems because it becomes very difficult to administer all the required services effectively when there are too many prisoners. In addition, overcrowding causes significant declines in the criminal reformation programs owing to the failure of the system to isolate people with serious crimes and those with minor offences. The overall effect has been that some prisoners end up being more radicalized and more willing to engage in crime instead of seeking to change. As such, the prison term fails to achieve the corrective aspect and although one is punished, the punishment only serves as a spur to commit more offences (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009).

Overcrowding has the likely effect of putting the country at loggerheads with the international community for failing to adhere to the international laws that govern the required prison standards. Overly crowded prisons have also tended to portray this country as one having a very high incidence of crime when actually a majority of the offenders being imprisoned are actually convicts of minor offences. Finally, congested prisons violate human rights and as a country obligated to uphold human rights and ethics, it would be a gross violation of the rights of the prisoners if they were to continue serving their prison terms in overcrowded prisons (Champion, 2001).

            The second main advantage of using parole in the criminal justice system is that it enhances the process of reintegrating the offenders back into the community. Apart from just punishing law offenders, this country’s justice system strives to have the offenders getting to the point where they are able to regret over their past actions and to reform to become like any other law-abiding citizens. Therefore, even though the punishment is carried out, the ultimate goal of the criminal justice system is to reintegrate the offender into the community. Parole hastens this process because it allows the offender to serve the rest of one’s prison term outside prison. This has been key in preparing the offender to get back to the community once the prison term is over (Siegel, 2009).

 Owing to the possibility that while in prison one is able to meet and associate with other law offenders who might not be keen on reforming and so there being a risk that an offender might be lured into desiring to engage in even more daring offences, parole helps to isolate and so shield mild offenders from radicalized ones who might lead them astray. This has the overall effect of ensuring that the mild offender is able to get back to normal life sooner rather than later, giving one the chance to contribute to the development of one’s state and the country (Lanham, 2006). Usually, freshly released prisoners tend to be lost on what to do and how to go about life in the community. However, of all things, they are very careful never to do anything that would get them back to prison helps to ensure that prisoners have a chance to interact with the people in the community long before they actually are fully released or their sentences are served out.

            Parole is also a very ideal method for saving government funds (Lanham, 2006). Recidivism – the act of a prisoner committing the same crime again – is usually minimized when a prisoner is placed under parole. This is because the prisoner is placed under strict supervision and so one’s tendency to recommit the offence is minimized. This in turn is helpful to the government which will incur less financial strains when there are fewer people committing offences. In addition, serving part of one’s sentence out of prison, although with some supervision, is fairly cheap compared to serving the term in prison (Chappell, 2000).

Cons of Parole

            Parole is responsible for bringing about a threat to the security of the general public. One of the main aims of seeking to have ways to punish law offenders is to ensure that they are deterred from engaging in the acts again. In essence, all forms of criminal punishment are meant to ensure that criminals are not let or allowed to terrorize people and cause a state of anxiety. Instead, the public has to be given the opportunity to go about their daily business without disturbance and/or threats to their property (Lanham, 2006). On this basis, it is the duty of law enforcement agencies to ensure that this security of the public is guaranteed; and one of the ways of doing this is to get law offenders taken away to prison – away from the midst of the law-abiding citizens. Unless criminals and other law offenders are punished in prison and let to serve their prison terms to completion in the prison, they will not learn their lessons. Parole also compromises the security of law abiding citizens. It greatly places the security and safety of the people on the line just because one individual needs to be helped.

The other disadvantage of parole is that it compromises and even disregards the principles of social responsibility where law offenders ought to be made to account for their actions against the society. Every law offender ought to be forced to serve out one’s prison term to completion and any need for reintegration into the community must only come at the end of this prison term. Failure to do this will only serve to expose the public to the risks of being attacked or harmed by the person (Mays, 2008). This is especially so because prisoners going on parole are only required to commit, by word of mouth, to abide by the law and never to contravene the terms of their release on parole. Any psychologist will confirm that there is nothing someone who has been deprived of freedom cannot do if it can bring about one’s freedom. As such, every prisoner will be willing to agree to the terms of the parole just as a way to be free again and to be roaming freely in the free world. However, once this person is outside of prison confinement, he/she has no regard for what one committed to do. Instead, one lives a life one is used to – the life on breaking the law (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009).

The mere fact that a prisoner has committed not to engage in acts of law breaking, therefore, ought not to be taken to mean that one has changed (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009). Actually, there is more likelihood that such prisoners are more likely to commit crime than before because while in prison they have had a chance to learn from others that the way of crime is the only way to go. While in prison, inmates – perhaps owing to their idleness or lack of any other productive work to engage in – usually discuss among themselves the various ways of committing crimes and how to avoid the hand of the law (Lanham, 2006). Therefore, a prisoner who is released from prison at any one time has a high level of training on how to go about committing offences – and this with a lot more care to avoid being caught. This means that parole only opens the door for the prisoners to put into practice the new skills and strategies of breaking the law that they have learnt while in prison.

Parole also contravenes the very essence if criminal justice systems in the country. The essence of prisons and the need for law offenders to be send there to serve prison terms is first of all to punish one for the offenses committed. Of late, there has been a lot of emphasis on the need for the prisoner to reform and turn away from one’s antisocial acts. That might be good, even ideal, but it is not feasible and is therefore unrealistic unless the prisoner is first of all made to realize that what one did was wrong (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009). The only way to make a person understand that what one has done is wrong and unacceptable is to punish that person.

Parole does not really give a lot of value to the role of punishment in changing a law offender’s mannerisms and general outlook toward life. It just considers the need for the law enforcement agencies to have some form of convenience, a convenience that is brought about by having fewer people in prison and so less strain on the government resources and less work for the law enforcers (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2005). All this being done at the risk not only of the prisoner but also of the general public. This is because parole does not really help the prisoner to reform but exposes one to the temptation of committing a crime again and so getting back to prison. The place to best get a law offender not getting back to committing the same crime or a different one is to keep one in conditions which do not, as much  as possible, offer a conducive atmosphere to commit the crime. Prison, where one is kept in isolation from potentially tempting environments, is an ideal place to reform one (Lanham, 2006).

The Application of Parole

Parole has been widely applied in the six states and at the federal judicial level, especially since the 1966 Parole of Prisoners Act (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2005). The Act essentially requires law enforcement agencies and the Parole Board to consider having offenders with mild offences to serve the remainder of prison sentences outside the prison once they committed to abide by the provisions of their parole terms. This was prompted by the belief that once prisoners have reached at a certain point along their prison term, they tend to be so eager to be released because they often have already learnt their lessons and are ready to change (Abdinisky, 2005). At this point, taking them to the society helps them a lot more tan keeping them in prison.

Ever since that time, parole has been widely applied in the country (Lanham, 2006). The state of New South Wales has been among the leading users of the parole system, and although results have been mixed, the method has registered fair level of success compared to other methods of early release. The general use of parole in the country has been high especially starting in the early 1990s when many states resorted to the use of non-prison forms of criminal justice to punish law offenders. Although the statistics on the exact applicability of parole vary from state to state, the overall picture points to an emphasis on the practice (Lanham, 2006). In Queensland, for instance, parole was common in the early years of the 1990s, although this slightly fell as it came to be discovered there was a rather significant increase in offences and the number of offenders (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2005).

Conclusion

            The use of parole in criminal justice in this country has been fairly above average, although it varies from one state to another. Parole requires that prisoners who have served out part of their prison sentences be released to serve the remaining part while living under supervision in their own communities. There are benefits and limitations that are associated with parole; and its application in the country has been based on the balance between these pros and cons. The advantages have included a tendency to hasten the process of prisoner reintegration into the community and so ensuring their speedy reformation; the easing of congestion in government prisons; and the ability to save on the costs of having to keep prisoners in prison. The cons include the putting of the community at the risk of losses occasioned by recidivism; the threat to the safety and security of the public; the likelihood of encouraging recidivism on the part of the prisoner; and the failure to adhere to the principles of social responsibility.

            Word count: 2,547

References

Abdinisky, H. (2005). Probation and parole: theory and practice. Pearson/Prentice Hall

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2005). Year book, Australia, Issue 87. Aust. Bureau of Statistics

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009). 2008 Year Book Australia No. 90. Aust. Bureau of

 Statistics

Champion, D.J. (2001). Probation, parole, and community corrections. Prentice Hall

Chappell, D. (2000). Crime and the criminal justice system in Australia: 2000 and beyond.

 Butterworths

Lanham, D. (2006). Criminal laws in Australia. Federation Press

Mays, G.L. (2008). Essentials of Corrections. Cengage Learning

Regoli, R. (2009). Exploring Criminal Justice: The Essentials. Jones & Bartlett Learning

Siegel, L. (2009). Introduction to Criminal Justice. Cengage Learning

 

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