The expected time to serve is the period of imprisonment which a convicted prisoner is expected to serve and, in most cases, refers to the time between the date of reception for this episode and the earliest date of release.
Date of reception is defined as the date the prisoner was received into prison in a state or territory for the current episode. Counting rules for persons returning to custody from an escape attempt or parole are as follows:
- If a prisoner is recaptured and returned to custody following an escape, the date of reception for the current episode is the date the prisoner was received into prison prior to the escape, except in Tasmania. In Tasmania, if a prisoner is recaptured and returned to custody following an escape, it is treated as the start of a new episode and the date of reception for the current episode is the date the person was returned to custody.
- If parole is revoked resulting in an offender returning to custody, the date of reception is the date the person was returned to custody. That is, a new episode is deemed to have commenced.
The minimum term is the period that must be served before the prisoner is eligible for release from custody to parole, and the difference between the maximum and minimum term is the period that will be served on parole if the prisoner is released at their earliest eligibility date. While parole is generally granted at the earliest eligibility date, prisoners may be denied parole for some or all of the period up to the expiry of their maximum term. For both fixed and maximum-minimum sentences, the period actually served in custody may be less than the stated time to serve where administrative mechanisms such as sentence remissions are applied.
The time a prisoner is expected to serve in custody depends upon the sentence(s) originally handed down, the system of remissions and the forms of parole available in the various states and territories and whether any time was spent in custody prior to reception (for example, time on remand or in police custody). The rules governing date of release are complex and differ between the states and territories.
Expected time to serve is not calculated for prisoners sentenced to an indefinite term or to life where no minimum term has been fixed.
For New South Wales:
- Under current legislation, a court setting a term of imprisonment is required to first set a 'Sentence' period and then may set a 'Non-Parole' period. A court may decline to set a 'Non-Parole' period. These sentences are referred to as 'Sentence/Non-Parole' and ‘Fixed' sentence types respectively.
- Those prisoners with a sentence of three years or less, being a sentence that has a non-parole period, are automatically released from custody at the expiry of the non-parole term. Those with a non-parole term greater than three years may be released by the State Parole Authority at any time after serving the non-parole term.
The calculation of the Expected time to serve is based on either the non-parole period set by court or by the aggregate sentence and the following:
- If a court sentences an offender to be imprisoned in respect of an offence for the term of their natural life or a term of two years or more, the court must, as part of the sentence, fix a period during which the offender is not eligible to be released on parole, unless it considers that the nature of the offence or the past history of the offender make the fixing of such a period inappropriate.
- If a sentence of less than two years but not less than one year is imposed, the court may set a non-parole period.
- The non-parole period must be at least six months less than the term of imprisonment and must be in respect of the aggregate sentence that the offender is liable to serve under all the sentences imposed. Time spent in detention prior to the commencement of the sentence counts toward the time to be served under sentence if the sentencing judge so orders.
- Pursuant to section 74 of the Corrections Act 1986, the Adult Parole Board of Victoria may release an offender upon the expiration of the non-parole period but release on that date is at the discretion of the Board.
- With the exception of sentences of indefinite length, Earliest release date is calculated based on the date the prisoner is eligible for parole pursuant to the Corrective Services Act 2006 (CSA) and the Penalties and Sentences ACT 1992. The CSA prescribes two types of parole – court ordered parole and board ordered parole. Different parole eligibility date calculations apply depending on the offence for which the person has been convicted and the length of the term of imprisonment given by the sentencing court. Parole is the only form of early release available to prisoners in Queensland. Mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment also apply for particular offences in Queensland.
- Fixed periods of imprisonment apply for prisoners sentenced to a term of imprisonment of life before the prisoner is eligible to apply for parole. These range between 15 and 30 years, depending on the offence.
For South Australia:
- The Truth in Sentencing legislation implemented in August 1994 determines the way in which release dates are calculated. This legislation requires prisoners with an aggregate sentence of five years or more to formally apply to the Parole Board for release on parole. It enables the Parole Board to release prisoners with an aggregate sentence of five years or more at its discretion and provides directions for the judiciary to take the abolition of remissions into account when ordering sentences. Prisoners with a non-parole period (NPP) and an aggregate sentence of less than five years are paroled automatically.
- Release dates for prisoners are calculated as follows: where a prisoner has not had a NPP, the Earliest date of release is the aggregate sentence end date. Where a prisoner has a NPP and an aggregate sentence of less than five years, the Earliest date of release is the end date of the NPP. Where a prisoner has a NPP, and an aggregate sentence of five years or more, the Earliest date of release is the earliest date the prisoner can be released by the Parole Board. If this date has expired and no further release date has been set by the Parole Board, the Earliest date of release becomes the aggregate sentence end date, which in the case of Life or Other indeterminate sentences would be unknown.
For Western Australia:
Expected time to serve is determined differently depending on whether a parole term has been specified and the length of sentence as follows:
- For sentences where parole is specified, the Expected time to serve is calculated between the sentence start date and the Earliest Eligibility Date (EED).
- For non-parole sentences of less than 12 months if imposed prior to 1 July 2017 or 6 months if imposed thereafter, the calculation of the Expected time to serve is based on half of the maximum sentence as the prisoner may be released on Short Term Parole at the EED after serving 50% of the sentence.
- For non-parole sentences equalling 12 months if imposed prior to 1 July 2017 or 6 months if imposed thereafter, the prisoner must serve the full term and the Expected time to serve is calculated up until the sentence expiry date (maximum date).
- For non-parole sentences of more than 12 months if imposed prior to 1 July 2017 or 6 months if imposed thereafter, the prisoner may be eligible for release on a Re-Entry Release Order (subject to approval by the Prisoners Review Board), and the Expected time to serve is calculated up until the Re-entry Release Eligibility Date (RRED).
- If the EED or RRED have passed, any release date set by the Prisoners Review Board is taken into account. If the Prisoners Review Board has not set a release date but has set a review date, that review date is used. If there are no such dates, sentence expiry date is used.
- The calculation of Expected time to serve is based on the totality of all sentences less remissions which may be granted on eligible sentences. A remission of the whole or any part of a sentence is not to exceed 3 months, exceed one-third of the total period of imprisonment or reduce the sentence below three months.
- A prisoner may be eligible for remission of more than one sentence during an episode of imprisonment.
- The calculation of Earliest date of release does not take into account eligibility for parole. The actual date of release from custody may be earlier than the calculated Earliest date of release if a prisoner is eligible for parole. The actual date of release from custody may also be later than the calculated Earliest date of release, based on remission eligibility and how much is granted.
- If a court fails to make an order in relation to parole the prisoner will be ineligible for parole on that sentence.
For the Northern Territory, Expected time to serve is calculated based on their non-parole period (if this date has elapsed the Effective Date of Release (EDR) becomes the full-term expiry date), a fixed release date or an earliest release date based on a suspension of sentence after a set period of time.
For the Australian Capital Territory prior to 2009, prisoners sentenced in the Australian Capital Territory and who were held in New South Wales prisons were subject to New South Wales calculations for date of release. As of 30 June 2009, Australian Capital Territory prisoners were no longer held in New South Wales prisons.