Recent Australian reforms to parole following high-profile violations are premised on a purported public desire for greater restrictions on the use of parole. These changes reflect the tendency of legislatures to presume that the public is largely punitive and invoke a ‘forfeiture’ of rights rationale that weakens support for offender rehabilitation. We consider whether restricting parole is based on a sound reading of public views. Drawing on a national study of public opinion on parole in Australia, we use a latent variable approach to look for distinct patterns in attitudes to parole and re-entry. We also examine what factors explain these patterns. The results support the conclusion that appealing to a public belief in offenders’ ability to change may be the most effective way to increase public confidence in parole systems.