- 1 WHAT HAPPENS AFTER SENTENCING?
- 2 WHAT IS CONDITIONAL RELEASE?
- 3 WHAT DETERMINES WHETHER AN OFFENDER IS RELEASED?
- 4 WHEN CAN I EXPECT THE OFFENDER TO BE CONSIDERED FOR CONDITIONAL RELEASE?
- 5 TEMPORARY ABSENCE
- 6 DAY PAROLE
- 7 FULL PAROLE
- 8 STATUTORY RELEASE
- 9 ARE OFFENDERS SENTENCED TO LIFE ELIGIBLE FOR PAROLE?
- 10 WHAT IS THE CORRECTIONS AND CONDITIONAL RELEASE ACT?
- 11 WHAT INFORMATION MAY I OBTAIN ABOUT THE OFFENDER?
- 12 HOW CAN VICTIMS RECEIVE INFORMATION ABOUT THE STATUS OF THE OFFENDER?
- 13 HOW CAN I ENSURE THAT MY VIEWS ARE CONSIDERED AT A PAROLE HEARING?
- 14 WILL THE INFORMATION THAT I PROVIDE BE SHARED WITH THE OFFENDER?
- 15 MAY I ATTEND THE OFFENDER’S PAROLE HEARING?
- 16 CAN I GET A PEACE BOND AGAINST THE OFFENDER?
- 17 CONCLUSION
- 18 CONTACT INFORMATION
This booklet is designed to educate victims about parole, also known as conditional release. The booklet will provide an overview of what parole is, the different types of parole, the parole process, and the role victims may play in the process if they choose to do so. Contact information for parole and victim related information for the provinces and territories are also provided at the end of the booklet.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER SENTENCING?
Once sentenced, offenders begin to serve their term in either the provincial or federal correctional system. A sentence of less than two years sends the offender to a provincial prison. An offender sentenced to two years or more will serve it in the federal system. The offenders’ sentence is administered by either the Provincial or Territorial Correctional Service or the Correctional Service of Canada. The correctional service is responsible for determining the placement of the offender (level of security in the prison system) and treatment. The correctional service also provides information and recommendations to the parole board. The parole board is responsible for determining whether or not the offender meets the criteria for conditional release.
WHAT IS CONDITIONAL RELEASE?
Conditional release (or parole) is a program allowing an offender to be released early from prison to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community under the supervision of a parole officer. Ontario and Quebec have provincial parole boards that determine the conditional release of prisoners in the provincial system. The Parole Board of Canada determines the conditional release of inmates in other provinces and territories as well as those offenders serving their sentence in the federal correctional system.
WHAT DETERMINES WHETHER AN OFFENDER IS RELEASED?
There are many factors which influence whether an offender is released on parole. First off, it would be very rare that an offender would simply be released on full parole without having been given temporary absences or day parole. Parole is only granted when the board is satisfied that the offender will not pose an undue risk to the community and that they will abide by certain conditions. By allowing them to be released on day parole or allowing a temporary absence the board can see, based on their behaviour, that they were or were not able to behave appropriately for that time and that will then inform their decision to give them more responsibility.
Other factors that influence conditional release are the type of the offense, an offenders past behaviour on parole, an offenders past re-offending behaviour, an offenders participation in rehabilitative programming while in prison, an offenders understanding of the impact of the offense, the nature and seriousness of the harm suffered by the victim(s), an offenders release plans, and an offenders behaviour while inside the institution.
WHEN CAN I EXPECT THE OFFENDER TO BE CONSIDERED FOR CONDITIONAL RELEASE?
Adult offenders serving correctional sentences generally qualify for parole after having served one-third of their sentence and may automatically be released after serving two-thirds. There are several different types of conditional release or forms of parole: temporary absence, day parole, full parole, or statutory release.
Temporary absences are granted so that offenders can receive medical help, see family, participate in community programs, and undergo counselling. There are two types of temporary absences: escorted (ETA) and unescorted (UTA.) ETA’s may be granted at anytime during an offender’s sentence where the time served to be eligible for a UTA varies depending on the sentence.
Offenders serving a sentence greater than three years are eligible after serving one-sixth of their sentence. For sentences two to three years eligibility is 6 months into the sentence. For sentences under two years it is under provincial jurisdiction and varies between provinces. Maximum security offenders are not eligible for UTA’s.
Day parole allows the offender to be released into the community during the day and requires the offender to return or check in with the institution or halfway house each evening. Day parole is intended to allow offenders to prepare to be released back into the community by allowing the offender to participate in community based activities and to readjust to life outside of prison.
Federal offenders serving a sentence greater than three years may apply for day parole six months prior to full parole eligibility; two to three years are eligible after serving six months of their sentence; and provincial offenders serving less than two years are eligible after serving one-sixth of their sentence. Offenders serving a life sentence are eligible for day parole three years before their full parole eligibility date.
Full parole allows offenders to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community. They are subjected to certain conditions and must report to a parole office at minimum twice a month. If they fail to follow their conditions they may be returned to prison and have their parole revoked.
Federal offenders are eligible for full parole after serving one-third of the sentence or seven years, whichever is less. Provincial offenders are also eligible after serving one-third of their sentence. First time, non-violent offenders used to be able to apply for full parole after serving one-sixth of their sentence but the government eliminated this possibility with Bill C-59 in March of 2011. Offenders serving life sentences for first degree murder are eligible for full parole after serving 25 years and at a time between 10 and 25 years, set by the judge at sentencing, for second degree murder.
Federal law requires an inmate to be entitled to statutory release after serving two-thirds of the sentence. Federal offenders are required to serve the remaining third of the sentence in the community under the supervision of a parole officer with conditions. Provincial offenders however, if not granted parole prior to serving two thirds of their sentence, are released into the community without supervision and without conditions; their sentence is effectively completed. If granted parole though then their parole conditions would remain for the remaining third of their sentence in the community.
Not all inmates are entitled to statutory release. Offenders serving life sentences or indeterminate sentences are not eligible for statutory release. Furthermore, some offenders in rare cases may be ordered by the Parole Board of Canada to be detained in the penitentiary until the warrant expiry date (the end of the sentence).
The Correctional Service of Canada (federal sentences of two years or more) and each provincial correctional authority (provincial sentences of less than two years) reviews statutory release cases involving Schedule I (personal injury) or Schedule II (drug) offenses prior to the statutory release. If it is determined there is a probability the offender will commit an offense causing death or serious harm, a sexual offense involving a child, or a serious drug offense if released into the community, then the offender’s case will be referred to the Parole Board of Canada or, if in Ontario or Quebec, to the provincial parole board for a detention hearing. If convinced that the offender will commit a serious offense if released into the community, the Parole Board will order the inmate to be detained to serve the entire sentence behind bars.
ARE OFFENDERS SENTENCED TO LIFE ELIGIBLE FOR PAROLE?
Yes, offenders sentenced to life are eligible for parole. A conviction of first-degree murder automatically carries the sentence of life without the possibility of parole until 25 years. A conviction of second-degree murder sentences the offender to life without the possibility of parole for anywhere from 10 to 25 years (set by the judge at sentencing). Once the offenders have served the ineligible parole years they may then apply for full parole. Lifers are eligible for unescorted temporary absences and day parole three years prior to their full parole eligibility date; the intention of which is to slowly reintegrate them back into society and to ensure they are ready for full parole when the time comes.
There is however an exception to this. Section 745.6 of the Criminal Code (the Faint Hope Clause) allows lifers with parole ineligibilities of at least 15 years, who have served at least 15 years of their sentence, and who have not committed more than one murder, to apply to have their parole ineligibility period reduced. If their application is successful this could mean they could apply for parole earlier than they would otherwise be allowed. Even with a successful faint hope application however, they are not automatically granted parole but still have to apply to the board as any other offender would.
The process of making a faint hope application is quite complicated and has grown even more so with the passing of Bill S-6 on March 23, 2011. As of this date, anyone committing murder or high treason on or after March 23, 2011 is no longer eligible to make a faint hope application. Those lifers must now serve their full parole ineligibility period before being allowed to apply for parole. Further, Bill S-6 has also considerably restricted the process of making an application. Eligible offenders now only have a 90-day window in which to submit an application for judicial review once they have served 15 years. If denied or if they do not apply within the 90-day window they must then wait five years to reapply. After five years they once again only have 90-days in which to apply. An exception to the 90-day rule does exist; the 90-day window may be extended to a maximum of 180 days if it can be shown that the offender could not submit an application with the 90-day period due to circumstances beyond their control.
In submitting a faint hope application the offender must apply to the Chief Justice in the province in which he or she was convicted. The Chief Justice then determines whether there is a substantial likelihood, based on probability, that their application will succeed and if so refers the case to a jury of 12 members. If the application is rejected at this point and does not go to a jury then the judge must either set a time no less than five years in the future when the offender can reapply or decide they cannot apply again.
If referred to the jury the jury must then unanimously decide whether to approve the application. If a jury cannot come to a unanimous decision the application is denied and the jury then decides whether to allow the offender to reapply at a time at least five later or to not allow them to apply again.
If a jury unanimously agrees that the offender’s parole ineligibility period should be reduced then they must set a time when the offender will be eligible to apply for parole. The time may be immediately or any other time between the present and 25 years. Once the offender has served the required time they will then be eligible to apply for full parole.
Offenders serving life sentences are eligible to apply for day parole 3 years prior to their full parole release date.
WHAT IS THE CORRECTIONS AND CONDITIONAL RELEASE ACT?
The Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) is legislation governing the corrections and parole system and contains provisions providing rights to victims within the system. The Act provides victims the right to obtain certain information about offenders. The Act also affords victims the right to attend parole hearings and provide information about the offender or about the emotional, physical, financial, and psychological impact the crime has had on their lives. This information may be used in determining the offender’s placement, treatment, and release.
WHAT INFORMATION MAY I OBTAIN ABOUT THE OFFENDER?
As the victim, you have the right to obtain information regarding the offenders’ names, offenses, court of conviction, sentence commencement, dates and lengths of sentence, and release eligibility dates. You may receive additional information such as the offenders’ age, location, date of release, destination, date of detention hearing, conditions of release, and whether an offender is in custody, and if not, why not. The correctional service and the parole board have discretion in providing this additional information. You may also request to be notified immediately should the offender escape from the institution.
To receive information on the offender, you must contact either the correctional service or the parole board. It is your responsibility to contact the agencies directly to request information. While many victims wish to deal with these agencies directly, others may not. You have the right to designate someone other than yourself to receive information about the offender. You may designate an individual or an agency, such as Victims of Violence, to serve as your contact with the agencies.
HOW CAN VICTIMS RECEIVE INFORMATION ABOUT THE STATUS OF THE OFFENDER?
You can receive information updates about the offender by registering as a victim with the Correctional Service of Canada, the Parole Board of Canada, or the provincial equivalent in Ontario or Quebec. These organizations maintain a Victim Notification List containing the names and current addresses and telephone numbers of those victims wishing to receive ongoing information regarding the offender. If you wish to receive ongoing information on the offender, you must contact the agencies directly.
HOW CAN I ENSURE THAT MY VIEWS ARE CONSIDERED AT A PAROLE HEARING?
It is important that the Correctional Service and the Parole Board understand the impact the crime has had on the life of the victim. Both agencies may consider information from the victim when determining placement, treatment and conditional release. You should provide a victim impact statement to the agencies describing the impact of the crime, concerns about the offender, and opinions about possible early release. You may be allowed to present the statement in person or by audio or video recording. A written statement must be provided to the board in French of English prior to the hearing. Contact the parole board to determine exactly what may be allowed (for more information on this topic, please refer to our A Victim’s Guide to Participating in the Criminal Justice Process).
The correctional service and the parole boards are required by law to disclose to the offender information which is used to determine their conditional release. However, if disclosure of the information risks the safety of an individual, the information may not be shared with the offender. This exception is rare and generally information which has not been disclosed to the offender may not be used during the decision-making process. Victims’ personal information such as their phone numbers and addresses are not shared with the offender.
MAY I ATTEND THE OFFENDER’S PAROLE HEARING?
Yes, both the Parole Board of Canada and the provincial parole boards allow victims the opportunity to attend the parole hearings of offenders. Victims may also submit information for the board to consider in making its decision. If you are not able to attend or would like more information you may also obtain a copy of the decision for parole by contacting the parole board.
In order to apply to attend victims must be registered as victims. Once registered, victims interested in attending a parole hearing must contact the parole board to request permission to do so (for federal offenders, at least 60 days before the hearing.) A support person may also be approved to accompany the victim. For victims approved to attend a hearing, funding also exists to assist and compensate them in attending. Eligible expenses include such things as transportation costs, meals, hotel, and childcare. Generally those under 18 years of age are not allowed to attend a parole hearing.
CAN I GET A PEACE BOND AGAINST THE OFFENDER?
Typically, at the victim’s request, the parole board will place conditions on the offender’s release into community supervision that requires him or her to stay away from the victim and the victim’s residence. However, if you have reasonable fear that an individual will cause personal injury to you or your spouse or child or damage your property, you may request a peace bond be issued against the individual.
You may make an appointment before a Justice of the Peace to review your request that a peace bond be issued against an individual. The peace bond orders the individual to keep the peace and be of good behaviour and may specifically prohibit the individual from coming into contact or communicating with you. The peace bond may also imprison the individual for refusing to abide by any portion of the bond. Additionally, the peace bond may prohibit an individual from possessing firearms, ammunition, or explosives during the protective period. Peace bonds only apply for a period of one year.
Understanding your rights in the criminal justice system may enable you to regain control over your victimization. While some victims prefer to take a more passive role in the post-sentencing process, you may choose to be actively involved in the process. This booklet is a general overview of the conditional release process. You should contact the correctional service and the parole board directly for more specific information.
Parole Board of Canada Victim Line: 1-866-789-INFO (4636)
Ontario Victim Support Line: 1-888-579-2888
Quebec Crime Victims Assistance Centre: 1-866-532-2822
PAROLE BOARD OF CANADA
Fax: (514) 283-5484
Fax 306- 975-5892
PROVINCIAL PAROLE OFFICES
Central North Regional Office
Central East Regional Office
South West Regional Office
La Commission Québécoise Des Libérations Conditionnelles
Bureau De Québec
Phone: 418- 646-8300
Bureau De Montréal
Fax: 514- 873-7580
Feedback about our Victim Library is greatly appreciated.
Please vofv(at)victimsofviolence(dot)on.ca if you have any comments, or to report errors or omissions.