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The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on a wide variety of legal issues in the Province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.
This topic will discuss parole. Parole is a conditional release from jail for offenders to serve the balance of their sentence outside of the institutional confines. Offenders always serve the part of their sentence in jail and if granted parole, they may serve out the rest of their sentence in the community. The aim of parole programs is to provide a gradual, controlled and supervised bridge between jail and freedom. The National Parole Board (NPB) has absolute discretion to grant or deny parole. The federal Parole Board has jurisdiction to grant parole for all offenders sentenced to a federal penitentiary and offenders held in Alberta provincial jails. NPB puts the protection of society as the most important consideration in any release decision.
Paroled Offenders will be placed on a set of strict conditions, aimed towards enabling their reintegration or rehabilitation into society as thriving and law abiding individuals. Once paroled, you will be given a parole supervisor. You must report to your parole supervisor immediately upon release from prison. You will also be required to meet with your parole officer whenever he sees fit. Paroled offenders must provide their supervisor with their information regarding their employment, volunteer activities, educational pursuits and current residential address. If there has been a change in any of these respects, you must inform your parole officer immediately. As a paroled offender, you will usually not be allowed to leave Canadian borders and are subject to any other territorial restriction placed on you by your supervisor. You must keep the peace, be of good behaviour and obey the law. If you have been arrested or questioned by the police you must notify your supervisor immediately. Other conditions may include abstaining from alcohol and illegal drugs, forbidding contact with victims or children and staying away from people involved in criminal activity. You will generally not be allowed to retain any weapon as defined by the Criminal Code, unless you receive authorization from your parole officer. Your (previous) criminal record will be considered when formulating these restrictions.
The National Parole Board may revoke the release of any offender and return them to prison if they do not abide by the conditions of their release.
Four types of conditional releases are available to offenders considered for release. The releases are known as temporary absence, day parole, full parole, and mandatory release.
Temporary absence releases are the first type of release granted to an offender. Those serving a term of three years or more may qualify for the program after serving at least 1/6 of their sentence. For sentences between 2 and 3 years, unescorted releases may be granted after serving the first 6 months. You must also exemplify exemplary behaviour during your time in prison. If these criteria are satisfied, a release may be granted on humanitarian grounds, such as attending to a sick family member or funeral, engaging in a rehabilitative program such as personal development training, counselling or community service work projects or receiving necessary medical treatment.
For sentences under 2 years, eligibility for temporary absence is under provincial jurisdiction. Provincial correctional centres may permit some minimum-security offenders a conditional early release under the Temporary Absence Program. The provincial temporary absence system allows for release for up to 15 days at any time after the inmate has served 1/6 of his sentence. This is different from parole and is administered by a separate Temporary Absence Board. In some cases, those who apply to the Temporary Absence Program may be admitted into the Surveillance Supervision Program offenders.
Unemployed offenders admitted into this program must report to an Attendance Centre 7 days a week to participate in the programs or do community work. If your employment terminates during the course of the program you also must report daily to the Attendance Centre. You will be subject to curfews between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. and will be supervised. Employed offenders are also subject to a curfew.
Day Parole allows the inmate to be released during the day to participate in community-based activities, such as a drug or alcohol treatment plan, employment or vocational/ educational training. It is intended to prepare offenders for full parole or statutory release. The offender must return to the correctional facility or a halfway house at night unless the NPB authorizes otherwise. Inmates serving sentences of 3 years or more may apply for day parole 6 months before they are eligible for parole. Inmates serving life sentences may apply for day parole 3 years before they become eligible for parole. Inmates who are serving sentences between 2 and 3 years must serve 6 months before they are eligible for day parole. Offenders serving sentences less than 2 years become eligible for day parole after serving 1/6 of their sentence.
Full parole entitles the offender to serve the rest of their sentence in the community under the rules and regulations of the Parole Board. If the inmate violates any parole condition, or is charged with another crime, parole may be suspended or revoked until an investigation is completed and the inmate may be returned to prison. Most offenders become eligible for full parole at 1/3 of their sentence or after 7 years. Violent offenders are exceptions to this rule.
Statutory release is not the same as parole. Most federal inmates are automatically released after serving 2/3 of their sentence if they have not been already released on parole. If you are a deemed dangerous or long term offender you will likely never be released from prison. While the Correctional Service of Canada cannot grant a statutory release, they may recommend an offender be denied statutory release if they believe the offender will cause death or seriously harm another person, commit a sexual offence involving a child or commit a serious drug offence before the end of their sentence. Strict conditions and restrictions are placed on the offender and are supervised in the community by the Correctional Service of Canada. If they breach any conditions or restrictions, the offender may be returned to prison.
All conditional releases are supervised by the Correctional Service of Canada through different agencies. The agencies may be the Salvation Army, John Howard Society, Elizabeth Fry Society, St. Leonard’s Society, Native Clan Organization and Native Counselling Services of Alberta. The offender is monitored and assisted in reintegrating into society.
All inmates are advised of their parole eligibility dates and their right to have a parole Hearing. The inmate should prepare for the hearing by learning what the criteria is of the Parole Board is for release. The inmate should fulfil the criteria by becoming involved in the institutional treatment and rehabilitation programs and participating in vocational training. Plans should also be made for community‑based treatment and family and community support.
In preparation for a hearing, the members will study inmate’s files containing information such as the criminal record, prison reports, reports of any treatment and program participation, psychiatric and psychological assessments, letters from employers, friends and family members, the attitude of the inmate towards the offence, the type of conviction and the Judges’ comments at sentencing.
Upon reviewing these factors, The Board will make an assessment of the offender’s risk and likelihood of re-offending. In most cases, the board members will come to an immediate decision. If they refuse release, the Board must give the reasons. The inmate may request a re‑examination of the decision to be carried out by members of the National Parole Board Appeal Division in Ottawa.
If the inmate is released, he or she must sign a parole certificate. Federal parole may be suspended for up to 14 days if there is suspicion that an inmate is somehow violating the release conditions. If parole is suspended, the inmate will be arrested and returned to jail. The inmate will be interviewed within 10 days of being returned to prison at which time they can explain their side of the story. Within 14 days of the arrest, the suspension of the parole is either cancelled and the inmate re‑released or the case is referred to the Parole Board for a decision whether to “revoke” or cancel parole.
If the case is referred to the Parole Board, the inmate may request a hearing. The Board’s decision must be in writing, and if it refuses to re‑release, the inmate must be informed of the next eligibility date for release. The inmate may ask for a re‑examination of the Board’s decision within 30 days of the decision.