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Schapelle's choice: parole or possible early release

To proceed with parole but stay in Bali until at least 2018, or to ride out her prison sentence with a potential 2015 release. Michael Bachelard reports on the difficult decision ahead for Schapelle Corby.

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Schapelle Corby will be free to come home to Australia almost three years earlier if she serves out her sentence in prison rather than applying for parole.

In effect, parole actually increases the length of Corby’s sentence because she would lose the benefit of remissions for good behaviour of up to eight months per year, and she will be required to serve an extra 12 months in Bali receiving "guidance".

Documents obtained by news service AAP show that, on parole, she would not be eligible to come home until March 24, 2018, though she would be living outside Kerobokan prison in Bali. If the convicted drug smuggler elects to stay in prison, she could return to Australia as early as August 2015, assuming she continues receiving time off for good behaviour.

Parole pending: Schapelle Corby, an Australian drug smuggling convict at Kerobokan prison, Bali, Indonesia in 2008.

Parole pending: If successful Schapelle Corby will be required to stay in Bali 12 months longer on parole and live with her sister Mercedes and brother-in-law Wayan Widiartha. Photo: AP

The official confirmation from the Bali Corrections Board, BAPAS, presents a stark choice for the Corby family, which now has passed most of the other tests required for for a parole application.

Corby signed documents last week stating that, on parole, she would not use or distribute drugs, that she would report to the corrections board at least monthly, and that she would “dress neatly and appropriately for the officials”.

She will also be subject to snap inspections of her sister Mercedes’ home by the corrections board.

“If I cannot fulfill those requirements, I'm ready to be sent back to prison to undergo the rest of the sentence,” Corby confirms in the documents.

She has also agreed to live with sister Mercedes and brother-in-law Wayan Widiartha. Corrections officers who visted Corby in prison last week said she had told them she’d be productively employed designing bikinis for Wayan’s surf shop, according to the head of BAPAS, Ketut Artha.

The fact that she has signed the documents suggests the family has determined to apply for parole soon. Further supporting that is the news revealed by Fairfax Media on Saturday that Mercedes has been inquiring about paying the 100 million rupiah ($10,700) financial penalty which is another part of Corby’s sentence.

The corrections board supports Corby’s bid for parole based on interviews with her at the jail last week, and an inspection of Mercedes’ home in Kuta. But while the recommendation from BAPAS is crucial, it is not a guarantee that parole would be granted.

The recommendation will now be passed on to the Law and Human Rights Ministry, but a parole board still needs to be constituted and agree that she should be released. A decision to release Corby on parole is also likely to have political implications for the Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is already heavily criticised and accused of giving the western prisoner "special treatment" by granting a five-year reduction in Corby's sentence last year.

A final decision from the parole system will not come for up to three months after Corby applies for parole. Another hurdle remains with her immigration status: though some Indonesian laws suggest foreign prisoners can be given parole, others say they cannot, and that released prisoners must immediately be deported. That conflict remains unresolved.

Corby, who was caught in 2004 attempting to smuggle more than 4.1kg of marijuana into Bali, was sentenced to 20 years in jail but had her prison term slashed by five years by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

She has been eligible to apply for parole since last August but has not yet done so.

With AAP