Our criminal justice system includes overseeing an offender's release back into the community and measures to protect the public.
Parole allows a person to serve the rest of their sentence out of prison. A person becomes eligible for full parole after serving a portion of the sentence, usually one-third or seven years, whichever is less. A judge may order that violent offenders or serious drug offenders not become eligible for parole until one-half of the sentence has been served, or ten years, which ever is less. The parole eligibility period is different for a person convicted of murder. For example, a person convicted of first degree murder must generally wait 25 years before becoming eligible for full parole. A judge may set the parole eligibility period for second degree murder at 10 to 25 years. Under what is sometimes called the "faint hope clause", individuals may apply to have their parole eligibility date reduced after they have served at least 15 years of their sentence.
In Saskatchewan, the National Parole Board decides if a person gets full parole. The Board assesses the person's case to make this decision. Parole is never automatic.
The National Parole Board can consider and decide parole applications through a review process. In some cases the Board holds a hearing with the person to consider whether leaving prison on parole will help with their rehabilitation. The Board may direct the release of low-risk, non-violent offenders serving their first federal penitentiary term without holding a hearing. The Board may do this if it considers it unlikely that the person will commit a violent offence.
If the Board grants parole, the person is released from prison. They must comply with certain conditions and see a parole officer regularly until the date the original sentence was scheduled to end.
In making any decision concerning parole the Board's most important consideration is to protect society. Parole is based on the philosophy that the best way to protect society is to release offenders back into the community gradually under supervision and with conditions. The aim is to contribute to a safer society by helping offenders re-integrate into society as law-abiding citizens.
Victims of crime have the right to certain limited information about an offender and their prison status. For example, victims may receive information about things like whether the offender is in custody, where the offender is serving their sentence, dates of upcoming reviews and release dates. This information is only provided upon request. Victims may provide information about things like the impact the offender has had on the victim, their family and community and safety concerns that they may have. This information must be considered if the National Parole Board is considering an offender's release. Victims also have the right to be heard at parole hearings. Offenders will be provided copies of information and statements provided for the NPB to consider.
It is important to distinguish between parole and statutory release. Parole is a discretionary type of conditional release whereby Board members assess offenders' risk to the community. However, under statutory release most federal inmates are entitled to serve the last one-third of their sentence out of prison if full parole has not already been granted. Statutory release is automatic, not discretionary, with some exceptions. Persons serving life sentences or indeterminate sentences are not eligible for statutory release.
Correctional Service Canada has the authority to refer some statutory release cases to the National Parole Board if there is a concern that the offender, before the end of their sentence, is likely to commit a serious offence causing death or serious harm to another person, a sexual offence involving a child, or a serious drug offence. If the Board decides that this is likely, the statutory release will be prevented and the offender will remain in custody. The Board is required to review orders for continued detention annually.
If the Board decides an offender is unlikely to commit such crimes, the Board may allow a special "one-chance" statutory release. The person is released but if they break the conditions of release and the Board revokes the statutory release, they must serve the rest of their sentence in prison. The person cannot get another chance for statutory release.
A person who leaves prison on statutory release must comply with certain conditions. Their release into the community is supervised and they must see a Correctional Service Canada supervisor regularly until the date the original sentence was scheduled to end. If an offender does not comply with these conditions their statutory release may be suspended or revoked. If statutory release is taken away, the person is not eligible for another statutory release until serving two-thirds of the remaining sentence.
If you are convicted of a crime you will have a criminal record. This can affect things like work and travel. Employers can ask for a criminal record check before hiring you. Agencies that use volunteers may also ask for a criminal record check. Other countries may have rules that do not allow people with criminal records to enter their country.
In most cases, you can apply for a record suspension after a certain waiting period. You will still have a conviction, but it will not appear in the Canadian database that is used to check for criminal convictions. This can make it easier to find employment or take part in educational programs. Travel outside of Canada may still be affected as your record could appear in other databases.
You cannot apply for a record suspension right away. You must complete your entire sentence, including your probation period, plus the required waiting period. The waiting period can be 5 to 10 years depending on the offence and does not begin until you have completed your sentence. There is an application fee.
The Parole Board of Canada is the agency in charge of record suspensions. This is a government agency. It is important to note that there are private companies that offer to help with the process for a fee. It is not any easier, faster or cheaper to get a record suspension applying through a private company. It is, however, easy to confuse these companies with the Parole Board because they often use similar language and colours in their advertisements. You should deal only with the Parole Board. You do not need a lawyer or other person to represent you.
PLEA can provide you with information to help you understand many legal matters you, a family member or friend may be facing.