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Estimates: Questions about parole application processing times

During Parliamentary Budget Estimates on Wednesday 3 August 2022, I asked about people being held in prison awaiting a decision on their parole applications. 

You can read the answers below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).

Mr BERKMAN: Minister, sticking with parole, it was last year I think that the government passed laws lowering quorum requirements for the Parole Board and giving itself a temporary extension to consider applications to deal with that backlog of something like 4,000 parole applications and suspensions in overcrowded prisons. Minister, how many people are currently waiting in Queensland prisons for a parole decision and how many of those have been waiting more than 180 days?

Mr RYAN: Thank you, member. There has been some recent advice provided to heads of jurisdiction, including the Chief Justice, from Queensland Corrective Services—and the president of the Parole Board is behind me, so I will invite him to say a few things in a few moments. There was an extraordinary time last year when, obviously, there were a number of impacts on the workforce because of COVID and a number of impacts on the correctional system because of COVID. There was also an unexpected increase in the number of parole applications around exceptional circumstances, so the government acted and funded those additional temporary Parole Board teams. We have extended those again in this year’s budget, so teams 4 and 5 are going for another two years and there is the creation of a new sixth team for 12 months. The latest advice I have on the time line—it is 120 days for a parole decision, unless more information is required—is that 100 per cent of applications are being decided within that time frame. If that is the measure of what is a backlog, the backlog is now zero because those decisions are being made within the legislative time frame. I will invite the president, if you do not mind, member, to add a little bit more to that.

Mr Byrne: As the minister has said, COVID and a number of factors impacted directly and substantially on the board’s operations. To give you some idea, as at 30 June 2020 the board had 4,104 applications before it and in June 2021, moving forward a year, it had 4,403. In the 12 months since then we have reduced that by over 1,200, to 3,246, and we are totally within time frames for new applications. There are other interesting figures the member might be interested in. When we commenced in 2017 with the old forums and the old funding, we had three operating teams and we conducted six meetings a week. Currently we have five operating boards or teams and we conduct 13 meetings a week. Since our inception we have considered some 19,400 applications and there has been an increase of 84 per cent in applications in the five years that Parole Board Queensland has been there. The board has held some 2,500 meetings in total, so we are trying and we are busy and we are grateful to the government for the resourcing that we are getting.

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