The gradual supervised release of offenders who have demonstrated responsibility to change offers the greatest likelihood of successful re-entry and continued safety for the community.
The position of CCJA regarding the value of parole, over the course of four decades, has always been thoughtful, pragmatic, cautionary and based upon review of the research and results as reported by government agencies.
We recognize and accept the need for offenders to be held responsible for their behaviour and respectfully rely on the sentence of the courts to set the foundation for this outcome. Release back into the community becomes a paroling responsibility and is carried out taking into account the progress of the offender and the safety needs of the community. We support parole because it is release which is conditional, based upon adherence to clear and specific conditions and enforced by appropriate professional supervision in the community.
In 1973 an eminent CCJA panel presented a brief on the Parole System in Canada to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. In it they provided a number of recommendations that can be considered to have been timeless. They recommended that the parole system needs to be easily understandable by all those affected by it as well as the public; that the National Parole Board be responsible for all federal offenders as well as provincial offenders in those provinces not having legislated their own boards; that a minimum period of incarceration prior to parole eligibility be maintained; and that the responsibilities of parole decision making and parole supervision be separated. They discussed the risks of parole release vis-a-vis the release of offenders with no supervision after a lengthy period of incarceration. They asserted that as many prisoners as possible should be released, as early as possible, consistent with public safety, in order to ensure that offenders maintain hope and initiative in bettering themselves, while being able to count on assistance during release. A period of supervised release after imprisonment was considered crucial to protect the public.
Over the course of the next four decades and many studies and draft legislation, we have emphasized the following: the possibility of parole as a protection against violence; detailed correctional program plans for each offender; a period of intensive supervision and assistance in the community, rather than imprisonment until sentence expiry for those deemed dangerous; and crime prevention.
Statutory release has always been “a particularly delicate issue…” to quote a previous brief. Nonetheless, reliance on statutory release as a penitentiary release mechanism continues to grow year after year, and is now approaching 6000 releases per year. To eliminate this release practice would increase the costs of such additional incarceration to a level that is not sustainable for a government striving to meet the many urgent needs of its citizens. Further, assuring some period of community supervision and assistance after release is an indisputable component in ensuring public safety. Results consistently show that offenders released on statutory release, 60% complete the last months of their sentences crime-free and without any breach of their release conditions. For offenders released on day parole this number reaches 84 % while the success rate for full parole is around 76%. Release without the benefit of community supervision on the other hand, can only bring unassumable risks to communities. Parole supervision is the best tool to ensure effective reintegration to the community and public safety.
Recent statistics continue to show a declining parole grant rate over five years. From 2009 to 2010 the full parole grant rate dropped from 44% to 40.8% while the day parole grant rate dropped from 68.9% to 66.3%. During 2011-2012 the decline continued further to 38% and 64% respectively. It is expected that the downward trend will continue in part because of legislation that adds further conditions to an offender’s access to parole including an extension of the waiting period after a parole refusal to 12 months from 6 months.