5. Information For Prisoners On The Parole Process
What do we want to see?
5.1 If the parole process is to be robust and effective, it is essential that all those affected know what to expect from it and are kept informed. That includes the prisoner who, at present, is likely to be the only party appearing before the Parole Board. Ill-prepared prisoners can lead to adjournments of hearings at a cost to the public purse.
5.2 We would like to bring about changes which ensure prisoners know what to expect at a parole hearing. These measures should help to prevent undue delays in the process. Further measures to explain conditions of release to prisoners could also ensure that prisoners are aware of the licence conditions of their parole and the consequences for breaching these.
What happens now?
5.3 Currently, the prisoner is provided with the parole dossier. The dossier can include a report from the judge who presided at the trial; details of any previous convictions; reports from prison staff; a report from those involved in providing any counselling in custody; a report from the prison-based social worker; and a report from a community based social worker or any other relevant information or documents. The information should be up to date and accurate so as a complete picture is provided covering the prisoners background and journey through prison which helps inform the Parole Board's assessment of risk.
5.4 Rule 6 of the 2001 Rules makes provision where the Scottish Minsters or, as the case may be, the Parole Board, consider that any written information or a document contains "damaging information" that should not be sent or disclosed to the prisoner. Where such information is identified, the Scottish Minsters or, as the case may be, the Parole Board are not required to send a copy of the damaging information to the prisoner. Where any information or documentation is withheld from a prisoner, they must be informed that this has occurred by way of written notice. The non-disclosure of any information or document does not impact the ability of the Parole Board to take the damaging information into account when considering the prisoner's case.
5.5 When the decision to release is made, the prisoner is given a copy of the decision letter along with the relevant licence conditions imposed.
5.6 Some support for prisoners is available from the Lifer Liaison Officers (LLO) (role may be combined with role of Early Release Liaison Officers (ERLO)) who is appointed at establishments holding life sentence prisoners. The duties include management of prisoners and their progression, and submitting an overview report that is included in dossiers for consideration at a Tribunal. The ERLO is appointed at establishments with long-term determinate sentence prisoners and is responsible for overseeing the preparation of dossiers and associated matters.
Options for Change
5.7 We want to make sure that the parole system is more open and transparent for everyone. That includes prisoners whose cases are considered by the Parole Board. We are therefore considering whether changes should be made to the information that is provided to prisoners in relation to the parole process.
5.8 The Parole Board makes binding recommendations on an individual's licence conditions and also considers whether the person should be recalled for breaching those conditions. It may be appropriate for the Parole Board to explain the conditions of release to the person concerned. This additional measure could help to ensure that prisoners clearly understand their licence conditions and the consequences of breaching them. It could be that a meeting with a Parole Board member would help to ensure that prisoners fully understand the detail of their licence conditions. The meeting could take place after the hearing which directed release and could focus on ensuring that the person has clearly understood what is expected of them.
5.9 It also may be possible to do more to explain the detail of licence conditions and implications of breach through the LLO or ERLO role.
5.10 Alternatively, an official could be appointed under section 21 of the 1993 Act, which allows the Scottish Ministers to appoint people to give information to prisoners or former prisoners about their release on licence under Part 1 of the 1993 Act or their return to prison under the Act. These provisions are not currently used, but the appointment of an official may help to prepare a prisoner for release and could help to ensure they fully understand the licence conditions recommended by the Parole Board and what it means if they are recalled to custody.
Questions on Information for Prisoners on the Parole Process
Question 11: Do you think that prisoners currently receive the information they need to enable them to participate in the parole process?
Yes / No
If Yes, why do you think that? If No, what information or help do you consider should be provided to help prisoners understand the parole process and their licence conditions?
Question 12: Do you think that more could be done to make sure that prisoners understand their licence conditions and the consequences of breaching them?
Yes / No
If Yes, what do consider is the best approach to ensure prisoners understand the terms of their licence and who is best placed to provide information? If No, why not?
Email: Sandra Wallace
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