So he was on parole when he killed Jill? Really? How on earth does that happen!? What an absolutely disgusting failure of the system! This is OUTRAGEOUS!
Adrian Bayley was on parole when he raped and murdered 29yr old Irish-born Melbourne woman Jill Meagher in December 2012. Bayley wasn’t a stranger to assaulting and raping women. This wasn’t a case of ‘oops, I didn’t mean to… sorry, won’t happen again.’ He raped and attacked women in 1990 and was subsequently arrested. He then raped five prostitutes between 2000 and 2001, and was arrested & jailed for that too.
So why was he let out early this time? And more importantly, would it have made a shred of difference?
To answer the first question, it depends on the state. Each state in Australia has different considerations when considering parole. I won’t bore you with details, but I will point out that the parole board in Victoria (Adult Parole Board of Victoria, or APBV) do consider prior criminal history, risk of re-offending, victim impact statements, and they do consider the nature of the offence.
So, what the hell APBV? Why did you let him out? Have you no shame?
In support of the APBV, the carrot & stick of parole has been shown it can lead to better behaviour by inmates in prison, and can also result in a smoother re-integration into society. Once out into the community, a parolee is still somewhat supervised & monitored, and they have more support & resources available, compared to non-parolees who are completely released at the end of their sentence.
And that rationale is totally reasonable. How many cases of successful parolees do we hear about in the media? Zero. Which means successful parolees are actually a common occurrence. But the media has no interest in common occurrences. It feeds on the exception. Cases like Adrian Bayley are media gold. They get blown out of proportion (the parole, not the murder) because it’s rare, it gets people angry and fired up, and eventually leads to utter state of head-scratching disbelief.
But would the early release of Mr Bayley have made a shred of difference? Well, to Jill Meagher and her family, the difference was life and death. Had Bayley not been wandering the streets that night, Jill gets home without incident, and we see her beaming smile on television once again.
However, to Adrian Bayley, it merely expedited what I (and I’m positive many others) presumably think he would have eventually done regardless. One silver lining is that he was caught straight after Jill.
Consider this scenario if parole hadn’t occurred. Several years later, he’s completely released from prison after serving his whole sentence. He’s off the radar and without supervision, so he rapes and kills more women around Melbourne and doesn’t get caught for a while. It’s a hypothetical, and I’m in no way suggesting what happened to Jill was a positive…
So what’s the solution? In my opinion, there is no solution simply because there are too many variables.
Parole is a great initiative and if we want to identify flaws in the criminal justice system, there are a multitude of places to start. At what point in the life of Adrian Bayley did it go wrong? At birth? His upbringing? Was there a mental disorder? Were the previous sentences too lenient? What support did he receive while in prison the previous times, and did he receive any help after prison? Did he have family close by? Was he allowed to move near family? What about re-education or potential employment to keep him out of trouble? Or is this a case of one person who was simply too far gone to be rehabilitated? If Bayley is such a monster, why wasn’t he given a life sentence earlier? What about the death penalty?
What most people don’t realise is that a Judge will often sentence an offender knowing there’s a high probability they’ll be released on parole. So if the sentence is 10 years with a minimum parole period of 6 years, there’s a good chance the Judge considered 6 years to be a sufficient sentence. Keep that in mind when the media circus start swinging on their trapezes, hoping to flush the public faces red in anger at “yet another parolee out early committing a heinous crime.” An outrage may be warranted, but not necessarily at the parole board.
Parole isn’t black and white. I wouldn’t even call it grey. It’s even more complex than that. Human nature is unpredictable and it’s impossible for a parole board (or a judge) to be able to predict with 100% certainty whether someone will commit another crime. If they had the wonderful power of hindsight, they’d do a perfect job.
But wouldn’t we all?
Update: 26 May 2016 – Since the Jill Meagher case, a review has seen the parole system in Victoria change. Being ‘up for parole’ is no longer automatic, it must be applied for, and therefore the lazy, and possibly psychotic are weeded out. Inmates must also proactively apply to complete programs to deal with alcohol, drug, or violence issues.
Despite this, details of another case reared its head recently when Steven James Hunter, out on parole for all of two weeks, killed 22-yr old Sarah Cafferkey in 2012 after the pair were partying, using drugs, and eventually an argument turned fatal. Hunter had been jailed for killing a schoolgirl some 30 years earlier.
The issue here was that the parole board weren’t privy to reports and case files that suggested Hunter had not overcome his violent tendencies towards women. The parole board simply acted on what was in front of them. A communication mishap is an understatement. This has lead to further calls for violent offenders who are released to be treated in a similar vain to sex offenders – electronic monitoring and closer supervision. It sounds good in theory but it still screams cure over prevention.
I agree with parole, and I agree that certain offenders need to be more closely monitored. I also think solutions need to be found much earlier in the process.