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Question Time: Parole board delays

On Tuesday 20 April 2021, I asked the Minister for Police and Corrective Services about the overburdened parole board.

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

Mr BERKMAN: My question is to the Minister for Police and Corrective Services. Queensland’s Parole Board is so under-resourced and overloaded that at least 1,500 applications are outside the statutory time frame for decisions, and applications made today are not likely to be heard until December. What steps is the government taking to clear the backlog of Parole Board applications, limit overcrowding and ensure people are not held in prison any longer than they should be?

Mr RYAN: I thank the member for the question. This is a government which invests in community safety—we have shown that time and time again—and we continue to ensure that our frontline agencies have the resources they need to ensure the community is safe. There is an important thing to say first up before I talk about our investment in the Parole Board, corrective services and community safety, and that is that just because a person’s parole eligibility date has come up does not mean they will automatically be granted parole. The Parole Board makes decisions in the interests of community safety. It is always their highest priority. Just because someone is eligible for parole does not mean they will be granted parole, and that is the way the system works.

When it comes to investing in resources, not only did we establish the new Queensland Parole Board in 2017, but we boosted resources. We boosted resources in 2019, we boosted resources in 2020 and we have recently again boosted resources by over a third. In fact, there is now a fourth temporary operating board to process applications. As a result of COVID-19, we saw an overwhelming number of applications for extraordinary circumstances parole. This meant that there was additional workload on the Parole Board, but we boosted resources last year to support that and, as I just said, we have boosted resources with a fourth operating temporary board.

We are also investing in community safety when it comes to prison capacity. Of course, we have the massive expansion at Gatton—over 1,000 beds—with early works already underway. That will be a massive investment in correctional capacity but also in the economy for the Lockyer and Gatton communities. Throughout our time in government we have also added thousands of additional beds. We reopened Borallon after it was closed under the LNP government. We have invested in expansion at Capricornia. We have also expanded capacity through our bunk bed program. All up, by the time Southern Queensland stage 2 at Gatton opens in 2023-24 our government will have added 4,000 beds of additional capacity. That is investing in community safety. It is investing in correctional capacity.

Of course, our investment does not stop there. Our investment also goes to the front line when it comes to policing—a record investment. In fact, it is the biggest investment in almost 30 years with over 2,000 additional police personnel. When it comes to community safety, when it comes to investing in frontline services, it is the Labor government that delivers and we are very proud of that record.

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