COVID-19 and the Parole Board of Canada

The Parole Board of Canada (PBC) is committed to the health and safety of the public, offenders, its Board members and staff as it continues to adapt its policies and operations in response to the unprecedented situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PBC’s operational decisions continue to be informed and guided by the advice and recommendations of public health officials.

This page contains the latest information on PBC operational measures in response to COVID-19. We remain committed to fulfilling our important public safety mandate. Thank you for your continued patience.

Parole reviews

Current status

PBC parole hearings normally take place within Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) institutions where the offender is incarcerated.

As a result of ongoing travel restrictions and limited access to Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) institutions, and in an effort to protect the health and safety of staff, Board members, offenders, and members of the public, PBC hearings continue to be primarily conducted by videoconference, or by teleconference where videoconferencing is not possible.

However, the PBC and CSC have jointly developed risk management frameworks for the gradual resumption of certain in-person hearings, adapted to regional circumstances and respecting public health restrictions.

At the discretion of individual PBC regional offices, in-person hearings may be conducted for Elder-Assisted Hearings, as well as in cases where the offender has difficulties (i.e. cognitive, mental health, physical or other) that may prevent them from communicating effectively by way of a remote hearing, or where an in-person hearing may be required for hearing management purposes.

Given physical distancing and other safety requirements, the number of participants that can be accommodated at in-person PBC hearings in CSC institutions will be determined on a case-by-case basis, based on the applicable risk management framework and hearing room capacity. Therefore, it may not be possible to accommodate all requests to participate in-person.

Should CSC make a decision to limit access to institutions for public health reasons, a previously scheduled in-person hearing may need to be held by videoconference or teleconference.

All individuals participating in hearings within a CSC institution will be subject to CSC’s established health and safety protocols, including screening, wearing masks, and physical distancing.

Parole eligibility

Eligibility for conditional release is legislated under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA). The timeframes are prescribed by the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations. Eligibility dates are calculated by the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). Offenders may also submit an application to the PBC in accordance with the legislation.

The PBC must review an offender’s case in accordance with the legislated timeframes and will continue to facilitate the release of offenders where appropriate based on the specific circumstances of the case.

In making conditional release decisions, the PBC considers all relevant available information related to the offender’s case, including court and sentencing information, the nature and gravity of the offence, and information obtained from victims, the offender and other components of the criminal justice system, including assessments provided by correctional authorities.

Information regarding the offender’s health or health risk posed by the COVID-19 pandemic will be considered if relevant as part of the risk assessment, along with all other information on file.

Safe release of offenders

In an effort to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the PBC has worked to streamline its processes and has modified some of its policies to provide additional flexibility to CSC and community partners.

For example, for offenders already in the community on day parole and who become eligible for full parole, the PBC is looking at efficiencies to expedite those decisions. The PBC has also amended its policy to allow CSC to permit offenders in the community to access medical leave privileges for up to 30 days rather than the current 15-day limit.

The PBC continues to process Parole by Exception cases as expeditiously as possible when they are referred to us by the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) for offenders who are terminally ill or whose physical or mental health is likely to suffer damage if the offender continues to be held in confinement.

The PBC is also working with CSC to better accommodate the circumstances of offenders during the pandemic, such as to change a residency requirement from a community-based residential facility to a home or family environment where such placement is risk-appropriate.

In recognition that offenders may experience more difficulty communicating with their assistants in a timely way, the PBC has taken that into account and will be as flexible as possible to ensure offenders have access to the Appeal Division.

In all cases, eligibility for conditional release is legislated under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA). The timeframes are prescribed by the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations. Eligibility dates are calculated by the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). Offenders may also submit an application to the PBC in accordance with the legislation.

Information regarding the offender’s health or health risk posed by the COVID-19 pandemic would be considered if relevant as part of the risk assessment, along with all other information on file.

PBC decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic

CONTINUING OPERATIONS

The Parole Board of Canada (PBC) continues to conduct conditional release reviews during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes reviews that are set by law, as well as those that are generated by way of application from an offender and referred to the PBC by the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC).

To be responsive to an anticipated increase in parole applications during the pandemic, the PBC has streamlined its processes and modified some of its policies and practices.

A FEW IMPORTANT THINGS TO NOTE

  1. The PBC cannot report on the number of its decisions that are specific to COVID-19, except in certain parole by exception cases. This is because in making conditional release decisions, the law requires the PBC to take into consideration all relevant available information related to the offender’s case, including the offender’s health or health-risk posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    In addition, Board members must also consider and weigh other information such as court and sentencing information, the nature and gravity of the offence, and information obtained from victims, the offender and other components of the criminal justice system, including assessments provided by correctional authorities.

    Parole by exception is a mechanism in law to permit an exceptional parole consideration for those who have not yet reached their parole eligibility date and only under certain circumstances. These circumstances include when an offender is terminally ill or whose physical or mental health is likely to suffer serious damage if the offender continues to be held in confinement or for whom continued confinement would constitute excessive hardship that was not reasonably foreseen at the time of sentencing.

  2. No single factor in a parole review is ever determinative in the PBC’s decision-making. Public safety is the paramount consideration in all decisions and must be balanced against a rigorous risk assessment of the offender’s ability to safely reintegrate into the community.

  3. A parole decision does not automatically equal release from penitentiary. There is usually a gap in time between the point at which the PBC renders a parole decision and the point at which the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) releases an offender to the community under their supervision. 

    This may depend on several factors, including whether or not the offender has reached his or her eligibility date (as sometimes PBC decisions are made in anticipation of an upcoming eligibility date), whether a community bed space is pending or if a particular program or support in the community must be ready prior to the offender’s release. The time delay is usually a number of days but it could be a matter of weeks in some cases depending on the individual circumstances.

Updated as of October 18, 2020

PAROLE REVIEWS

The following provides a snapshot of PBC parole reviews during the COVID-19 pandemic, as of March 1, 2020. These figures will be updated on a bi-weekly basis.

Highlights:

Victims

The PBC is committed to ensuring that victims continue to receive all legislated information they are entitled to and that information from victims continues to be an integral part of decision-making.

Victims are encouraged to create an account on the Victims Portal, which provides them with 24/7 online access to receive and submit information. Victims may also consult Canada.ca/victims-and-parole for more information on the services available to them.

As a result of ongoing travel restrictions and limited access to Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) institutions, and in an effort to protect the health and safety of staff, Board members, offenders, and members of the public, PBC hearings continue to be primarily conducted by videoconference, or by teleconference where videoconferencing  is not possible.

In order to respect victims’ rights under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, victims continue to have the option to participate in PBC hearings via telephone, and victims wishing to attend a hearing should continue to complete and submit a Request to Observe a Hearing form. Victims will be informed of the options available for their participation (i.e. by telephone and/or in-person) in advance of the hearing date.

When attending by telephone, victims will be able to listen to the hearing and present their statement for Board members to consider in their decision-making. Information on how to participate in a hearing via telephone will be provided directly to victims by PBC Regional Communications Officers ahead of the scheduled hearing.

The PBC is also working to implement a videoconference system that will allow victims to participate in hearings by video while also protecting private and confidential information discussed at parole hearings.

At the discretion of individual PBC regional offices, in-person hearings may be conducted for Elder-Assisted Hearings, as well as in cases where the offender has difficulties (i.e. cognitive, mental health, physical or other) that may prevent them from communicating effectively by way of a remote hearing, or where an in-person hearing may be required for hearing management purposes.

Given physical distancing and other safety requirements, the number of participants that can be accommodated at in-person PBC hearings in CSC institutions will be determined on a case-by-case basis, based on the applicable risk management framework and hearing room capacity.

All individuals participating in hearings within a CSC institution will be subject to CSC’s established health and safety protocols, including screening, wearing masks, and physical distancing.

For victims who prefer not to attend a hearing, the PBC continues to accept victim statements in various formats, including audio or video recording.

By law, Board members must take into account all relevant and available information when forming their decisions, and this includes information or statements provided by victims of crime, no matter what format they are provided in.

Victims can also request to listen to the audio recording of certain hearings, and request a copy of the PBC’s written decision.

Offenders and offender assistants

Information for offenders and offender assistants around COVID-19 measures.

Information notices:

Observers

As a result of ongoing travel restrictions and limited access to Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) institutions, and in an effort to protect the health and safety of staff, Board members, offenders, and members of the public, PBC hearings continue to be primarily conducted by videoconference, or by teleconference where videoconferencing is not possible.

The PBC is working to implement a videoconference system that will allow observers to participate in hearings by video while also protecting private and confidential information discussed at parole hearings.

At the discretion of individual PBC regional offices, in-person hearings may be conducted for Elder-Assisted Hearings, as well as in cases where the offender has difficulties (i.e. cognitive, mental health, physical or other) that may prevent them from communicating effectively by way of a remote hearing, or where an in-person hearing may be required for hearing management purposes.

Given physical distancing and other safety requirements, the number of participants that can be accommodated at in-person PBC hearings in CSC institutions will be determined on a case-by-case basis, based on the applicable risk management framework and hearing room capacity.

All individuals participating in hearings within a CSC institution will be subject to CSC’s established health and safety protocols, including screening, wearing masks, and physical distancing.

The PBC is committed to maintaining openness and transparency in its decision-making during the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the public and the media continue to have the ability to request written copies of PBC decisions through its Decision Registry.

For media that have requested a PBC written decision, it will be sent to them as soon as possible once the decision is finalized and all victims have been notified of the decision.

Members of the public and media interested in attending a future PBC hearing should continue to complete and submit a Request to Observe a Hearing form.

PBC Media relations contact information.

For more information

For more information on COVID-19, please visit Canada.ca and follow PBC on Twitter for updates: 

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