May 17, 2020

The Parole Board: Myths and Misunderstandings

Martin Jones
Chief Executive
Parole Board

The Parole Board is an independent body which considers whether a prisoner’s continued imprisonment is necessary for the protection of the public. We make thousands of decisions a year for those who have committed some of the most serious offences. Due to the nature of these offences, our decisions can attract the interest of, and sometimes criticism from, the public.

It is crucial that there is confidence in and understanding of the Parole Board’s role in protecting the public. As Chief Executive, there are common myths and misunderstandings that I have come across in the five years that I have led the organisation.

During my InsightsOnline event, I will attempt to answer some of these questions; explain how we go about our difficult task, including during a global pandemic. I will also ask fundamental questions about how we define success, and the extent to which we can take account of the views of victims, and public opinion.

To give a taster of some of the issues I intend to tackle… 

Why do we have an independent body to make these decisions?

A: When the Board was established in 1967 it was not independent. I will explain why that changed, the Board’s status today and pose some questions about future change…

Does the Parole Board release everyone?

A: Actually, we are more likely to direct people to stay in custody?  I will explain the facts and trends….

Why does the Parole Board release people so early?

A: In reality the Board only consider release once the period set for punishment has passed. I will talk about the legal framework and explain how we decide if someone has changed…

Do people go on to commit terrible crimes after being released by the Parole Board?

A: It is extremely rare for people to go on to commit a serious offence; but I will talk about how we learn lessons from this… 

What is the “value” of parole? 

The Parole Board is not focused on saving money, we are only focused on the protection of the public. However I will talk about the human and financial costs of our decisions... 

Why does life not mean life?

A: Well it does… but it does not necessarily mean spending the rest of a person’s life in prison – though it can in some circumstances.  I will talk about the legal and practical operation of life sentences and how it has changed over time.

Does the Board listen to victims (and the public)?

I will explore in-depth how the role of a victim fits in to the Parole process and how we have proven to be a resilient organisation by making huge strides in opening our doors to the public and transforming the way we work, in the face of misunderstanding and recent challenges.

How has the Parole Board adapted to COVID 19?

The recent global pandemic has put to test the resilience of the Board. Annually, the Parole Board conducts around 8,000 face to face oral hearings. What do you do when face to face conduct becomes impossible?

Join me on 11th June to discuss these issues, and more.


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