Attending a Hearing in a Federal Institution - Fact Sheet

Parole Board of Canada (PBC) hearings usually take place in the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) institution where the offender is held.

Anyone can ask to observe a Parole Board of Canada hearing. To do so, you must submit a formal request to the PBC at least 30 days before the hearing is scheduled. Sometimes a hearing may be scheduled on short notice. If you have to make a late request to attend a hearing, the Board will try to process your request in time.

Victim services

If you are a victim of crime, additional services are available to you. For example, you have the right to certain information about the person who harmed you, and to be notified when a parole hearing is scheduled for the offender. You may also present a victim statement at the hearing, if you wish. To access services, you need to apply to register (PDF 166 KB) as a victim with the Parole Board or the Correctional Service of Canada.

The Parole Board of Canada: Victim Information Services video provides an overview of services and information available to victims of crime. The video includes a look inside a typical hearing room, showing where the various participants will be seated.

Arriving at the institution

If you are attending a hearing, plan to arrive at the institution about 30 minutes before the hearing will begin.

If you are a victim, a Parole Board of Canada Regional Communications Officer (RCO) will contact you a few days before to set a time to meet you at the main entrance of the institution. The RCO will go over the details of what to expect at the hearing, and answer any last-minute questions you may have. If you arrive at the institution before the RCO, a CSC staff member will let you know where to wait.

Security at the institution

You will need to show photo identification, such as a driver's licence.

All visitors and vehicles on institution property are subject to search at any time at the discretion of CSC staff. This could include a non-intrusive, "pat-down" search of your person. You may also have to pass through a metal detector or an ion scanner to check for banned substances. In some institutions, detector dogs may be part of the security process.

Personal belongings are also subject to search. Security staff may ask you to place items such as purses or briefcases in a locker before you enter the institution. Video or audio recording equipment, cell phones and similar electronic devices are not permitted in a CSC institution or at a Parole Board of Canada hearing.

Once the security check is finished, you will get a visitor identification card, which must be worn and visible at all times. If you a victim, the RCO will help you with the security sign-in.

Escort

Someone will be with you at all times while you are in the institution. If you are a victim, you will be escorted by the RCO; although a CSC staff member may escort you for short periods.

Waiting room

After passing through security, you will be taken to a separate area near the room where the parole hearing will take place. In many cases, an office or a boardroom is used as a waiting room and institution staff may come and go while you are waiting for the hearing to start.

Waiting and hearing rooms are often located in a secure part of the institution and you may pass through one or more automated security gates or doors on the way.

If you are a victim, the RCO will go over the procedures for the hearing with you. Other observers may wait in the same area.

Hearing room

When the hearing is about to begin, you will be led into the hearing room. Victims and other observers are always the last to enter the hearing room. Other participants, including the offender, will already be seated.

If you are a victim, you will sit with the RCO and other observers apart from the offender and other hearing participants. A CSC security officer may be present at hearings attended by victims.

The hearing

Hearings may take several hours. Be prepared to be at the institution for much of the day. At the hearing, the Board members will ask the offender questions and hear from the CSC Parole officer and the offender’s assistant, if one is present. Any victims present may present a victim statement.

Aboriginal offenders or offenders who have a shown a meaningful commitment to an Aboriginal way of life may request an Elder-Assisted Hearing.

The Parole Board of Canada decision

At the end of the first part of the hearing, you will return to the waiting area while the Board members consider their decision.

When the Board members have finished their deliberations, you will be led back to the hearing room so you can hear the Board members state their decision and their reasons.

Afterward, if you are a victim, the RCO will take you back to the waiting area where you can ask questions about the decision. You may leave the institution at this point, if you wish.

Whether you are a victim or a member of the public, you can ask for a copy of the Parole Board decision and reasons through the Decision Registry. You can request a decision, even if you did not attend the hearing.

Leaving the institution

After the hearing, you will be led back to the security desk to sign out and get anything you left with security. If you are a victim, let the RCO know if you need help getting to your vehicle or while you wait for someone to pick you up.

Other useful information:

What to wear

Dress conservatively. Comfortable, business-casual clothing is recommended.

Special needs

Not all institutions are easily accessible by wheelchair. Please advise the RCO beforehand if you or anyone coming with you to observe the hearing has any difficulties with physical mobility. If you are hearing impaired, please also advise the RCO.

Certain medications or medical equipment may not be permitted in the institution. If you need to take any medication or use any medical devices during the time you expect to be at the institution, let the RCO know ahead of time so proper arrangements can be made.

Washrooms

If you need to use the washroom while attending the hearing, you will be led to one you may use.

Smoking

Smoking is not permitted anywhere on CSC institution property and visitors may not bring tobacco into the institution.

Meals and refreshments

Food and beverage services for purchase by visitors at CSC institutions are limited or not available at all. If you will have to eat while you are at the institution, you may have to bring your own food. It is best to discuss your needs with the RCO beforehand.

Financial assistance

If you are a victim, you may apply to the Department of Justice Canada for funding to help pay travel and accommodation costs for you and a support person. You may also be eligible for funding for child care or dependant care while you are travelling to and attending a hearing.

Correctional Service of Canada Institutions

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