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How are parole decisions made?
Parole decisions are made by Board members either through an in-office file review (without a hearing) or a face-to-face hearing with the offender and their parole officer.
In addition to standard face-to-face hearings, offenders can request Elder-assisted hearings and community-assisted hearings. Elder-assisted hearings involve an Indigenous Elder or advisor and are held in a circle format. Community-assisted hearings also include an Indigenous Elder or advisor, but are usually held in the community where the offender plans to live.
Information used by Board members in parole decisions
Board members consider all relevant and available information in assessing an offender's risk to re-offend.
Information from the police, courts, Crown attorneys, mental health professionals, correctional authorities, private agencies, and victims of crime is used in assessing an offender's risk to re-offend and whether that risk can be safely managed in the community.
This information can take the form of judges' sentencing comments or recommendations, employment history, and psychological and/or psychiatric assessments, for example.
Board members also refer to actuarial assessments and risk assessment tools.
The Decision-Making Process
The Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) includes two basic principles which guide the Parole Board in its conditional release decision-making:
- That the protection of society be the paramount consideration in the determination of any case; and,
- That the Board make makes decisions that are consistent with the protection of society and that are limited to only what is necessary and proportionate to the purpose of conditional release.
The Parole Board considers two things when making conditional release decisions, whether:
- the offender will not present an undue risk to society before the end of the sentence; and
- 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.
Board members conduct a thorough risk assessment in all cases, taking into consideration the following information:
- An offender's social and criminal history, any systemic or background factors that may have contributed to the offender's involvement with the criminal justice system, the reasons for and type of offence(s) including the offender's understanding of the offence and any past offences;
- Any progress made by the offender through participation in programs, their behaviour in the institution and while on previous conditional release(s);
- Actuarial assessments and risk assessment tools;
- Any victim statements;
- The offender's release plan and community supports.
The Parole Board considers prison overcrowding, quotas, the political climate, and public sentiment when making its decisions.
The Parole Board is an independent administrative tribunal that operates at arm's-length from government and free from outside influence. Its decisions are based on a thorough risk assessment of all relevant and available information. Public safety is the primary consideration in all conditional release decisions.
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