The very first seeds of parole (the conditional liberty of convicted prisoners) were sown in Australia at least 150 years ago, by both the ticket-of-leave system which was applied to convicts before the end of the 18th Century and the staged release preparation procedures developed by Alexander Maconochie whilst in charge of the convict settlement at Norfolk Island.
Ticket-of-leave was a license to a prisoner to be at large in the community under certain conditions before the expiration of their sentence.
The principles of the ticket-of-leave system were preserved in New South Wales in the Crimes Act. The next development in New South Wales was the inclusion of section 464A of the Crimes Act by an amendment in 1949. The section created a Parole Board whose sole function was to consider the case of any prisoner referred to it by the Minister with a view to making a recommendation to the Minister as to whether the prisoner should be granted a written licence to be at large and if so, the limits of residence and the conditions which should be specified in or endorsed on the licence. The significance of the early parole system in New South Wales was that for the first time in Australia, parole supervision was removed from the police and entrusted to parole officers.
The Parole Board, as constituted by section 464A, continued until the end of 1966 when it was replaced by a new Board appointed under the Parole of Prisoners Act, assented to on 11th October 1966.
The significant growth in the Parole Board's workload led to a Ministerial review in 2004. As a result of that review a number of critical issues were identified which necessitated a revised structure and the allocation of additional resources to assist the Parole Board to effectively discharge its duties. By amendment to the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 the New South Wales Parole Board was re-titled the New South Wales State Parole Authority effective from 10 October 2005.
Currently parole in New South Wales is of two kinds - Court based parole and parole granted by the State Parole Authority.
For sentences which do not exceed three years, the sentencing court issues a parole order. The parole order inidcates the sentence that must be served in custody (non parole period), the parole period that is served in the community and the standard parole conditions.
The Parole Authority will only have involvement with a court based parole order in the following circumstances:
If there is an application made to revoke the order prior to release in circumstances where the offender:
does not seek parole, or
is unlikely to adapt to a normal lawful life, or
if there is no suitable post-release accommodation
If the Authority is informed that the offender, after being released to parole, has breached one or more of the parole conditions, it may revoke the parole order.
To vary the conditions of the parole order by adding or deleting conditions to assist with the supervision of the offender in the community.
Where the sentence exceeds three years and the court has fixed a non-parole period, release to parole is determined by the State Parole Authority of New South Wales.