What is parole and how does the parole system work?
The term ‘parole’ means temporary release for people serving longer sentences, including life sentences. Usually, the Board tries to review individual cases half-way through your sentence or after seven years, whichever comes first.
The Parole Board’s main role is to:
- manage long-term prison sentences so that prisoners are given the best opportunity to rehabilitate themselves
- advise the Minister for Justice on what it thinks is the best way to manage a prisoner’s sentence.
Before the Parole Board can review your case the Minister for Justice must first refer it to them. The Irish Prison Service will tell the Parole Board if your case should be reviewed in the next 18 months.
If you are on temporary release (parole) you are ‘on licence’. This means that if you are given parole or temporary release, there may be conditions that apply to your release. This could include supervision by the Probation Service.
- be called back into prison
- have to serve the rest of your sentence in prison rather than in the community
- have to wait for another parole review.
What influences the Parole Board’s recommendation on my release?
The safety of the public is top of the Parole Board’s priorities. The board advises the Minister of your progress to date. The main factors taken into account are the following
The type of offence and the seriousness of it.
The sentence you’re serving and any recommendations made by the Judge. How much of the sentence you have served at the time of the review.
The level of threat you pose to the safety of the public should you be released.
Risk of Further Offence
How high the risk is of you committing further offences while you’re on temporary release or parole.
Risk of Absconding
The risk of you failing to return to custody from any period of temporary release.
Your conduct while in prison
Your Use of Therapeutic Services
How much you have used the therapeutic services available, like counselling or courses related to the offence committed. And how likely it is that temporary release would improve your prospects of safely reintegrating when you go back into your community.
Minister Makes Final Decision
The Minister for Justice makes the final decision on parole, based on the recommendations of the Parole Board. The Minister usually, but not always,accepts the recommendations of the Parole Board.
Parole Act 2019: will allow Parole Board to make binding decisions
A new law, the Parole Act 2019, was signed into law in July 2019 but it is not yet in operation (as of December 2020).
Under the Parole Act 2019, once it is in operation, the Parole Board will make binding decisions, independently of the Minister, about:
- the release of life-sentenced prisoners.
The Minister for Justice will decide when this new law will come into operation. A significant change under the new law will be that if you are serving a life sentence, your first parole review will take place after serving 12 years of your sentence.
If I am granted parole, will I be supervised in the community?
Yes. The Probation Service will supervise you. If you are released on parole from a life sentence and commit a further offence, you will:
- be arrested again
- put back in prison
- have to go through the whole process again before the Parole Board in the future
Are there any offences that the parole process does not cover?
Yes. The parole process will not cover you if you are serving a sentence for certain offences like, murder or attempted murder:
- of a Garda or a member of the Prison Service in the course of their duties
- for political purposes, of the head of a foreign state or a diplomat
- while supporting the activities of an unlawful organisation.
If you are serving a mandatory minimum sentence, you will not qualify for parole until you have served the minimum period. You can’t get parole if you are detained by the Central Mental Hospital or in another designated psychiatric centre.
If I am not granted parole, when will I be eligible for parole again?
The decision to refuse parole must be given to you in writing. It must give you the reason for the decision. It must also give a date, which can’t be more than two years from the date of the initial decision, on which you will become eligible for parole review again.
You cannot reapply for parole until the date chosen by the Parole Board. The Board can include recommendations in the report about how you and the prison can manage your sentence, so that your future application will be successful.