Victim submissions to parole boards: the agenda for research | Australian Institute of Criminology
within the criminal justice system demonstrates to the victim on a basic level that justice parole officers have access to a variety of both general and . For the past 2 decades, the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) has. common questions victims have about parole and not to leave the country. What is the Parole. Board? The Parole Board is an .. video link with the offender in. Attention to the needs of the victims, survivors and other persons may move to oppose the inclusion of persons by reason of relationship, bias.
For example, the board commonly imposes freedom of movement restrictions in order to ensure the offender does not come into contact with the victim.
Victims of Crime
Anecdotal evidence suggests that victims are generally satisfied with their dealings with the VAU. Some victims indicate that the right to make parole submissions gives them a feeling of being more "in control". However, there are signs of early difficulties. In one case, an offender convicted of attempted murder was initially denied parole in March at a hearing at which the victim and her mother made submissions. When the offender was reconsidered for parole in December, the victim was not informed until after parole had been granted and the offender was about to be released.
The victim's mother was quoted as saying "I don't think the parole board pays enough attention to what victims want" Anderson This highlights the need for care to be taken in the design and operation of victim input procedures so that victim satisfaction is not adversely affected.
Of course, it is possible that a number of victims are not going to be satisfied with any outcome that includes early release of the offender.
Restorative Justice | Parole and Probation Administration
Issues and future directions In those jurisdictions that allow victim submissions to parole boards there is an implicit assumption that victim input is a positive development. However, Michael Tilburyformerly Commissioner of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission, has written that the "principal difficulty with [victim impact statements] is to fathom what their necessity or relevance is in most cases". This view, supported by some Australian judges, holds that sentencing courts already take into account the effect of the crime on the victim at the time of sentencing and that further consideration during the parole decision-making process is not warranted see, for example, R v RKB, NSW Court of Criminal Appeal, No.
Other commentators, particularly from a civil liberties perspective, see victim involvement as a step backwards. Anderson argued that allowing victims a say in the punishment of offenders "damage[s] our already tattered criminal justice system.
By institutionalising revenge, we have been guaranteed more anomalies and serious violations of human rights. From this perspective, parole decisions should be based upon the characteristics of the offender rather than the victim. Reliance upon victim submissions, then, arguably reduces the objectivity of decisions. Of course, these objections rest on the premise that victim submissions actually influence parole decisions.
Legislators may need to specify more clearly the way in which parole boards should use victim submissions. As there are no current Australian data to indicate what influence victims have had in the parole process, further research is called for.
The content of victim submissions is equally unclear. In Tasmania, victim submissions are legislatively limited to describing the impact and effect of the offence.
Curiously, the Tasmania Parole Board sees these statements only as relevant to the conditions imposed upon parole. It is difficult to understand the direct relevance that the impact of the offence has upon the offender's parole conditions.
In the ACT, victims are permitted to make a statement about the likely effect upon them of the offender's release as well as any concerns about the need for protection. This type of statement seems to have more utility in decisions regarding both granting of parole and conditions of parole. The other jurisdictions do not specify content at all, although New South Wales has an information package that indicates that the "submission should state how you, as the victim, feel about the impending release of the offender.
The submission should not include any additional evidence" Victims of Crime Bureau The issue of additional evidence is important. What should be done with new allegations against an offender?
How should inflammatory or prejudicial material be dealt with and how should the veracity of victim submissions be determined? Should an offender have a right of rebuttal?
These questions have serious ramifications, particularly if victim submissions are influential in parole decision-making.
Another important issue concerns victim satisfaction. In South Australia, it was found that the use of a victim impact statement in sentencing was more likely to lead to victim dissatisfaction Erez et al.
This was mostly because of unfulfilled expectations. The same danger exists in the parole process. Victims of crime may be further alienated if the framework for using victim submissions is not clear and well managed. There is currently a need for empirical research into victim involvement in the parole process. There are important questions regarding the impact of victim submissions on release decisions, the satisfaction of victims with the process and the actual content of victim submissions.
The issue of the offender's opportunity to respond to a victim's submission or new allegations also needs attention. Further, given the differences that exist between the various Australian jurisdictions, a comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of each system would be valuable.
Policy implications Several important policy issues arise from this discussion. The first concerns the level of disparity between jurisdictions. There are already inconsistencies in how offenders in different jurisdictions serve their period of incarceration. As some jurisdictions move ahead with victim participation in the parole process, the potential for arbitrary variations in punishment increases.
Justice to offenders and victims alike could be improved through harmonisation of laws and procedures across jurisdictions. Although a slow and difficult process, Australia has witnessed improved national coordination of law enforcement recently and a similar approach would be valuable in parole and corrections.
Another policy issue concerns the extent to which victims become involved in the parole process. Because of the potential impact of a victim submission on the punishment of an offender, there is a need to consider how the selective involvement of victims will be dealt with. One suggestion is that victim submissions be prepared by a victim advocate to ensure that "victim input occurs in virtually all cases" and that there is standardisation in the presentation of a submission Bernat et al.
The role that victim submissions actually play in the parole process is another important policy consideration. No jurisdiction in Australia has provided a clear legislative statement of how victim submissions should be used in parole decision-making. Consideration should be given to both the content of submissions and to what degree those submissions should influence release decisions or parole conditions. Legislators may also need to consider what should happen in cases in which the legal requirements for victim input have not been observed.
In the Tasmanian case referred to earlier, the legislative requirements for victim involvement were not complied with. In the United States, at least some jurisdictions allow victims to veto parole if their input was not sought Bernat et al.Parole Board: Victims Speak: Facing a Murderer - LMN
Should this type of situation be grounds for revocation of parole? Finally, the issue of victim satisfaction needs careful attention. As this paper has shown, if victim involvement is not planned and coordinated carefully there is the potential for increased levels of victim dissatisfaction. The Victim Support Service, run by the Department of the Attorney General and located at the District Court building in Perth, can help those who have difficulties with English or any other issues.
It must be signed by the victim for it to be recognised by the Board. The victim submission is never shown to the prisoner or any person acting for, or representing, the prisoner. Victim submissions are treated with the strictest confidentiality and cannot be accessed or obtained under the Freedom of Information Act Victim Notifications While it is not the role of the Board to notify victims of a parole decision, victims can get this information from the Victim Notification Register if they are registered with this service.
Under the Victims of Crime Actvictims may request to be informed about the impending release or escape of an offender in custody. The Victim Notification Register VNR is the ongoing link between the justice system and a victim of crime if the person who offended against them is serving a term of imprisonment. That is, VNR is the agency responsible for providing information to victims about the court and correctional management of an offender once the offender is under the supervision of DCS, including offenders released to parole.
Information from VNR is not automatically received by victims of crime. Some victims do not want to receive information about the offender once they are imprisoned. Therefore, if a victim of crime does want to receive information, the victim must register with VNR. Upon the release of an offender to parole, VNR can provide victims with information about the location of the Community Corrections Centre where the offender will be required to report for their period of supervision.