Parole: Contributing to Public Safety


In Canada, most offenders are serving

a fixed-length prison sentence.

This means they will eventually be released

back into the community once their sentence ends.

Before this happens, most offenders will become eligible

for and may receive parole.

Ever wonder what the purpose of parole is

or how it contributes to public safety?

Parole is a carefully constructed bridge

between incarceration and return to the community.

It is a type of conditional release, and contributes

to the protection of society by allowing some offenders

to serve part of their sentence in the community

under the supervision of a Correctional Service

of Canada (CSC) parole officer, and subject to conditions.

It does not reduce the original sentence imposed by the court,

and offenders are not free to do as they please while on parole.

Parole contributes to public safety by helping offenders

gradually re-integrate into the community and

adopt a law-abiding, pro-social lifestyle in a controlled

and supportive environment before they are released

from prison at the end of their sentence.

The Parole Board of Canada (PBC), an independent

administrative tribunal, is responsible for granting,

denying, and revoking parole for offenders serving sentences

of two years or more.

The PBC also makes parole decisions for offenders

serving sentences of less than two years in all provinces

and territories except Ontario and Quebec,

which have their own parole boards.

Parole decisions are made by PBC Board members, who,

reflecting Canada's diversity, come from all walks of life,

in fields as diverse as criminology, law, policing,

social work, medicine, education, business,

and private and public sector.

PBC Board members are thoroughly trained in risk assessment

and decision-making.

They make parole decisions through either an in-office

file review or a face-to-face hearing with the offender

and their parole officer.

When making parole decisions, PBC Board members consider:

all relevant available information related

to the offender's risk to re-offend,

whether that risk can be safely managed in the community,

and whether the release of the offender will contribute

to the protection of society by facilitating the offender's

return to the community as a law-abiding citizen.

The PBC's policies also respect gender, ethnic, cultural

and linguistic differences among offenders,

the special needs of women and indigenous peoples,

and other groups with special requirements.

For example, Elder-Assisted hearings provide

a culturally responsive hearing process for First Nation,

Métis, and Inuit offenders

that allows Board members to take into account

the uniqueness of their Indigenous culture and heritage.

All relevant available information is provided

to PBC Board members to consider in their decisions.

Information comes from a variety of sources and can include

information from the police, courts, victims,

mental health professionals, and correctional authorities.

When deciding on the conditional release of an offender,

Board members assess this information and conduct

a thorough assessment of each offender's social

and criminal history,

the offender's understanding of their offence;

any progress the offender has made or programs

they have completed;

their behaviour in the institution

and while on previous conditional releases;

risk assessments; the offender's release plan;

community supports; and any victim statements.

All of this information is used to assess an offender's risk

to re-offend, and the protection of society

is always the paramount consideration.

There are four types of conditional release:

Temporary Absences, Day Parole,

Full Parole and Statutory Release.

Temporary Absences are usually approved or authorized

for community service, family contact (including

parental responsibilities) or personal development,

and can be either escorted or unescorted.

Day Parole allows offenders to participate in

community-based activities, gain employment, and participate

in programs to prepare them for full parole

or statutory release.

Offenders on day parole must report to a CSC parole officer

and reside at a community facility or halfway house.

Full parole allows offenders to serve part of their sentence

under supervision in the community.

It fosters the gradual reintegration of offenders

back into the community.

Offenders on full parole must also report regularly

to a CSC parole officer, however they typically live

in a private residence.

Offenders are eligible to be considered for release

on full parole once they have served

one third of their sentence.

All offenders released on parole must follow standard conditions,

as well as any special conditions that

the PBC feels are necessary to manage an offender's risk

in the community.

An example would be to abstain from the use

of alcohol or drugs.

If an offender breaches any of their conditions,

their parole can be revoked and they can be returned to prison.

Statutory release is not the same as parole,

as it is not a PBC decision.

It is a mandatory release by law after an offender

has served two-thirds of their sentence.

The PBC can however order that an offender be detained

past their statutory release date in specific cases

on the recommendation of the Correctional Service of Canada.

Offenders on statutory release are also subject

to release conditions.

Under the law, victims have a role in the parole process.

Victims have a right to certain information

about the offender who harmed them.

They can provide the PBC with information about the offence

and its impact on them, and request that conditions

be imposed on an offender's parole.

They can also attend and present a victim statement

at parole hearings, receive parole decisions,

and request audio recordings of parole hearings

for which they did not attend.

To promote public understanding of parole, as well as

openness and accountability in its operations,

anyone can apply to observe a Parole Board of Canada hearing,

and all of its decisions are available upon written request.

Evidence shows that the gradual, controlled

and supervised release of offenders is

the most effective way of ensuring public safety.

Over the past decade, 96% of offenders on parole

have not committed a new offence,

and 99% have not committed a new violent offence.

Public Safety is always the primary consideration

in all parole decisions.

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