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
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.
For more information, please visit Canada.ca/parole.