The Canadian legal system holds that every person sentenced as an adult to a term of imprisonment is eligible for parole.
The origin of parole in Canada lies in the Ticket of Leave Act (1899), as it authorized the Governor General to provide leave to a prisoner of the penitentiary or reformatory (provincial) system on conditions that the Governor General saw fit. Currently, the issue of parole is governed by the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) as any provincial legislation concerning parole cannot conflict with the CCRA.
In Ontario, the Ontario Parole and Earned Release Board (the Board) possess the authority to grant parole under the Ministry of Correctional Services Act.
Prisoners serving a sentence in the reformatory system are eligible for parole at one-third of their sentence. While prisoners serving a sentence of less than six months must apply, those serving a six-month sentence or more will automatically have a hearing scheduled, unless one waives this right (in writing).
Information detailing the parole application process will be distributed to a prisoner as in the Ontario reformatory system each prison has a right to this information.
Therefore, upon receiving said information, to begin the application process, a prisoner must put in a written request to receive the parole application.
Along with this written request, it is suggested that an applicant submit a written request to speak with the parole liaison officer who can provide the applicant with the necessary paperwork.
The parole liaison officer will host a meeting to inform the prisoner of the application process, thus one should take the time to prepare any questions before hand. Further, if preparation is done prior to the parole liaison officer’s visit, an applicant can have the complied application reviewed by the Parole officer who may provide helpful feedback.
Before being considered for release at the Parole meeting, one must prepare a detailed application that can speak to one’s remorse, accountability, and insight into one’s actions.
To convey these sentiments, a parole applicant should meet with the Parole Officer to establish a viable plan of re-entry into society.
This includes information about where he/she would like to be released, the support network he/ she has available, employment or education plans, and intended leisure activities.
An applicant is free to submit supporting letters from friends and family, as this evidences a strong support system that can prevent a relapse into criminal behaviour.
In like manner, a letter from a counselling service stating a commitment to meet with the applicant upon his/her release is considerably beneficial to one’s release plan.
Locally, the John Howard Society in Newmarket, ON participates in submitting a letter of agreement to provide counselling upon release. Upon compiling the relevant documents, an applicant must submit the application to the Parole Liaison Officer, generally 3-4 weeks before the scheduled meeting.
Once at the parole meeting, the Board will assess the above information to determine, if:
a) the offender will not present an undue risk to society before the expiration of their sentence; and
b) the release of the offender will contribute to the protection of society by facilitating the reintegration of the offender as a law-abiding citizen.
To make this determination, the Board will review, the applicants criminal record, the seriousness and nature of the offence, one’s behaviour in prison and when the crimes committed.
Additionally, they will attempt to determine if the applicant is remorseful and understands why what they did was wrong through the documents provided.
Furthermore, in addition to board members and parole officers, a hearing may include, victims, (or their representatives), an inmate’s assistant, interpreters, observers, and Aboriginal cultural advisors/ and or Elders.
At the hearing, victims may, through written or oral submission, attest to the continuing impact of the crime committed and any concerns they may have for their own or their family’s safety. Such information may help the Parole Board evaluate any risk that the offender poses to the victims and to the community.
If the meeting with the parole board is successful one will be granted parole. However, upon release, the board is able to assign conditions.
Some conditions are established in regulation, such as to keep the peace and be of good behaviour, to report to the police and parole supervisor as required and to obtain consent for change of address or employment.
In addition, the Board may establish conditions, such as to abstain from alcohol and mandatory attendance at a treatment program.
These conditions are achievable because when granted parole, the individual will be under supervision in the community for remainder of the full sentence.
Furthermore, if a condition is breached, the person on parole may be returned to prison to serve the remainder of the sentence.
Words of Support
While the above instructions may seem daunting, some parting words from a successful applicant may help,” the most important thing you can tell your client is to be patient and keep asking questions”.
Further, when complying your application, try reflect and “Recognize what put [you] there and why”