The Parole Board of Canada is charged with implementing and managing the parole system for Canadians. Most offenders sentenced to federal sentences — two years or more in jail — are released before the mathematical end of their sentence.
In most cases, people are released once they’ve served two thirds of their sentence. The period spent in the community during the final third of the sentence is the parole period.
During the parole period, the offender must report to their parole officer and follow the conditions of their parole. Those conditions range greatly and depend on the original offence and other risk/predictive assessments completed by Corrections during the custodial period of the sentence. Abstaining from alcohol or drugs is a common condition of parole. Generally, a person on parole is taken back into custody if they are found to be breaching any parole conditions or committing new crimes.
Stan Stapleton wrote an article for the Ottawa Citizen from the perspective of a former corrections and programs officer about the proposed legislation to create sentences of life in jail without parole.
He points out some of the practical consequences for corrections staff and others who work with offenders.
Take that hope away and the risks of suicide and violence against staff and other prisoners begins to rise. Without the hope of parole, they quite literally have nothing to lose.
He also discusses some of the financial consequences:
And the prospect of incarcerating older, more frail offenders who pose minimal risk – after decades in prison – has the potential to divert resources from those who actually benefit from rehabilitation.
Parole and the prospect of parole is an important part of our criminal justice system. The parole system currently uses numerous predictive tools and assessments to craft individualized parole plans with people before they are released. There are already mechanisms within the criminal law system to protect society from dangerous people like the Parole system and the Dangerous Offender process that separate dangerous people from the rest of society.
Judges use a number of rules outlined in the Criminal Code of Canada to arrive at the appropriate sentence. It is important to remember that the individual people being sentenced have different backgrounds and varying issues, and the circumstances of most crimes are unique. A system that includes an individualized, incremental reintegration process is necessary, so it doesn’t make sense to use one that doesn’t reward good behaviour and success on the road to rehabilitation.