How does the Australian public view parole? Results from a national survey

Bartels L1, Bugler S2, Freiberg A3, Fitzgeral R2

1University Of Canberra
2University of Queensland
3Monash University

*Corresponding author: lorana.bartels@canberra.edu.au

Understanding public perceptions of parole is at a critical stage in Australia. Recent cases of serious parole violations, especially the Bayley case in Victoria, are presumed to have eroded public confidence and intensified calls for reform, fuelled by media reports that parole boards do not prioritise community safety. However, beyond the media portrayal, little is known about the broader public understanding of parole and attitudes towards its use. This paper presents results from the first phase of a larger study of public knowledge of and attitudes toward parole practices and policies. Based on data from a national survey of 1200 adults, we investigate public attitudes on parole, as well as factors explaining variation in these attitudes. Overall, our results show nuance in public views on parole. While the majority of respondents expressed some negative views towards parole and its efficacy, large proportions also strongly supported the need for improved prison programs and services. The majority also agreed with the proposition that society has an obligation to improve reintegration strategies for prisoners re-entering the community. Our results also show a strong connection between less supportive views on parole and more general negative attitudes toward offenders and their ability to change. These views were also expressed by respondents who reported fear of crime and personal experiences of victimisation. In addition, we observed significant variation in views across subgroups of Australians based on gender and socioeconomic status. We discuss the implications of these findings for criminological theory, policy, practice and research.

Biography

Lorana Bartels is an Associate Professor and Head of the School of Law and Justice at the University of Canberra and an Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Tasmania.

Arie Freiberg is an Emeritus Professor at Monash University, where he was previously Dean of the Law School, and Chair of the Victorian and Tasmanian Sentencing Advisory Councils.

Adrian Cherney is an Associate Professor at the University of Queensland.