Section Four

A selection of initiatives that attempt to reduce the length of custody by alleviating the enforcement of imprisonment


This section describes initiatives that attempt to reduce the use of incarceration by reducing the length of time for which that sentence is "enforced", i.e. actually served in a prison.

The possibility exists in a number of jurisdictions for the judge to declare at the time of sentencing that the person is to be imprisoned only on weekends, and be released for the "intermittent" days. Another popular practice is as follows: a sentence of impri-sonment is pronounced by the judge and the convicted person is admitted to a prison, but, at some point in time during the "administration" of the sentence, is able to benefit from an "early release". A range of mechanisms has been created for this purpose in many jurisdictions throughout the world, with varying degrees of "supervision" attached to them: temporary absence programs; day parole; release into the community during the day only or, to the contrary, only at night with attendance at the prison for a work assignment or other occupation during the day; release (or partial release) to a specialized or supervised setting, or, simply back home. There also exist some important community-sponsored programming initiatives that provide prisoners with preparation for successful community reintegration, thereby making earlier release from custody a more likely prospect.

These various forms of release, particularly those occurring very early in the sentence, are sometimes supervised, in part or in full, through electronic "monitoring" or "surveillance".

Finally, in some jurisdictions, "wilderness camps" are also considered to be an alternative that alleviates the enforcement of incarceration in a more institutional custodial setting.

These initiatives may sound very appealing in theory and, in fact, the good news is that they are successfully keeping many individuals out of prison without added risk to the community. Contrary to the great public fear, there is overwhelming evidence to date that dangerous, violent crime almost never occurs in connection with "leaves", "furloughs" and other such early releases (Mathiesen, 1995). However, when such a rare tragedy does happen, it attracts compelling media attention. It makes one wish the occurrence could have been prevented by virtue of a different policy or law. Yet we also know from a wide range of empirical prediction studies that it is almost impossible to predict the incidents of this kind that do occur. To guarantee that none would ever happen, countless successful early releases would have to be disallowed, frustrating and embittering many. This would further impact on prison costs and likely contribute to even more serious social problems in the future.

The other good news about these early-release programs is that they have not been affecting overall recidivism rates; to the contrary, for some offenders it is incarceration and longer confinement that seem to increase the risk of recidivism! (Lin Song, 1993.)

The bad news, however, is that these measures are not reducing the overall prison population in actual practice; they are reducing prison overcrowding, but keeping existing space filled, with the total prison capacity still continuing to rise. In addition, because they are a "trade-off" for imprisonment, stringent conditions may be imposed with a zero-tolerance approach to non-compliance so that a person may be re-admitted without committing another criminal offence, therefore increasing again the prison population.

Neither are these measures reducing costs, because the manner in which many are administered is still very expensive as well as cumbersome and ineffectual in at least some jurisdictions, as we will see. Nor can it be anticipated that cost savings will ensue in the future unless a deliberate policy decision is made to reduce prison space, as Québec and New Brunswick have now announced. Without this, there has been little inclination on the part of prison administrators to favour early releases at the expense of empty prison beds. Yet there is overwhelming evidence pointing to the comparative "success" rate these community measures have had whenever and wherever they have been used, and to their enormous potential for cost savings if they were not tied to prison admissions and capacities.

More fundamental questions need to be asked about the purpose some of these measures are serving with the particular population for which they are being used; and about the necessity at all, in many of these cases, of going through the motions of pronouncing a sentence of imprisonment that then has to be administered so expensively. More cost-effective tools for "satisfying justice" could be found for most of the population now considered eligible for these programs. Some of these following initiatives then, applied with care to a broader range of prisoners, may more effectively help to reduce the overall use of incarceration in this country.


Worse on weekends

As many as 30 people serving intermittent sentences for assault and drunk driving were sent home when they checked in last Friday to serve weekend time at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre ("Jail sends home weekend inmates because of strike," March 5)

Superintendent Ashraf Aial says, "None presented a risk to public safety." But striking guard Rob Jones called sending the weekend prisoners home a breach of public safety. Whom do we believe? The weekend prisoners are normally free week-days. Are they a risk then? Or do they only turn dangerous on week-ends when OPESU is on strike.
[end of article]

Don Hale, Nepean, The Ottawa Citizen, March 6, 1996

1. Community-Based Supervision Programs (Temporary Absence Permits, Day Parole, Intermittent Sentences)


In theory, many of these programs have been set up to provide access to programs in the community or to disrupt as little as possible a person's ability to carry on with employment or family responsibilities. In practice, however, their utilization is fuelled in many jurisdictions by the need to relieve prison overcrowding. This has led to pressures to apply the provisions rather chaotically, and sometimes, due to acute prison space shortages, without any regard whatsoever for individual circumstances or plans.

Citing one example in a 1993 report about the use of such imprisonment in Québec, it was reported that the "week-enders" serving intermittent sentences are sent to a motel, an empty school or a halfway house to "wait out their time", or even back home. Those benefitting the most from this mode of sentence are the video rental concessionaries, as that is how many of these prisoners are kept occupied for their "day", under supervision in a waiting room (L'Association des services de réhabilitation sociale, ASRSQ, 1993).

Some worry that such administration of shorter sentences may change offenders' perceptions about the certainty and severity of punishment. Yet this concern seems unfounded given the overall lack of effect on violent incidents or increased recidivism. However, it does raise serious questions about the need for this sanction in view of its costs. Its use is usually justified by the need to send out "a message" to the community. (For example, a couple whose infant son drowned in the bathtub while they watched television "had to be harshly sentenced to send a strong message to parents," which, according to the newspapers, is what an Ontario judge said... even though, he also said, he did believe the couple felt a deep sense of remorse and grief and didn't intend to harm the child... (The Canadian Press, Ottawa Citizen, Nov. 8, 1995). The mother got 60 days to be served on weekends. Yet, the best available research concerning deterrence argues against this as an effective tool. Isn't it just hearing of the death of the infant that has the real impact for parents? In such a situation, is one really deterred by the mere fear or threat of a jail sentence?

In the same report about Québec, it was also noted that, during the time period studied, 38.4 per cent of the provincial prison population had been sentenced to one day or less, 68 per cent to 30 days or less and that the average length of stay of a convicted prisoner was about 33 days, with the trend being to grant release to the community earlier and earlier due to the crowded conditions. This attests indeed to the fact that there is wide recognition, including among correctional administrators, that incarceration serves no useful purpose in a large number of cases. While the average length of sentences had increased by 20 per cent in the last year, the average length of time actually served in prison had decreased by 11 per cent (ASRSQ, 1993). It is noteworthy that the government of Québec has subsequently announced plans to close several prisons and to introduce a vigorous policy of diversion and administrative sanctions.

Similarly, in Canada as a whole, 66 per cent of all inmates admitted to provincial institutions are serving under three months (Statistics Canada), only 8 per cent are serving as much as one year to two years less a day, and 88 per cent of admissions of provincial inmates are for non-violent offences. This is the population by and large which after admission is receiving in increasing numbers the various forms of permits for community supervision. Ironically, this happens after being told by a judge, often with the full knowledge that this will happen, that they nevertheless "need to be sentenced to incarceration". Again, here, they are being sentenced for the sake of the message, not because a need is seen for the actual experience of incarceration itself.

The bad news is that this makes it unnecessarily more stigmatizing and costly to deliver to them the services that are sometimes made available in the community when they are released. The good news is that some of these programs are quite helpful and effective, though they do not necessarily attend to all the reparative issues that would be required for satisfying justice. Among the examples given below, the first story told shows what can happen when members of a community take on responsibility to deal with all the surrounding issues ignored by the justice system's penalty.

Sexual Assault - One Congregation's Story of Healing

This story concerns a man charged with sexually assaulting his daughter. He was sentenced to 30 days in prison to be served on weekends as well as a number of other requirements integrated into a plan developed by members of the church to which he and his family all belonged.

A Story

One Friday in June 1990, a member of the pastoral team at Oakview Mennonite Church was informed that Rob, a congregational member, had been arrested and charged with sexually assaulting his daughter, Sandra. (all names have been changed)

The congregation was informed by the pastoral team and began a difficult journey of developing a process to deal with the issues raised by the abuse and of providing support to family members and others. A conviction underlying this process was the belief that the church is for everyone, and that Oakview was called to minister to all persons affected: the offender Rob, the victim Sandra, other family members as well as other survivors of abuse.

Because there were no models which it could follow or adapt to its own situation, the pastoral team, in conjunction with several members who had expertise in relevant areas, developed its process one step at a time, never quite knowing what would follow.

The work was carried out at several levels. Within the first two weeks, separate support groups were established for Rob, and for his wife Carolyn and daughter Sandra. At another level, the team tried to minister to other survivors of sexual abuse or family violence within the congregation by arranging support meetings, paying for counselling, and providing other resources and support.

With respect to the charges against Rob, the congregation arranged for persons to be present with Rob at his court appearance and subsequent sentencing. Congregational members were instrumental in developing and presenting to the court a sentencing plan for Rob which included community service at a local sexual abuse treatment centre and allowed him to retain his job and his involvement with community members.

The congregational support and participation in the preparation and oversight of the sentencing plan made an impact on the court which imposed a custodial sentence much shorter than that normally given.

Later on, congregational members helped Rob set up his own apartment and provided transportation to and from the detention centre where he served his 30-day sentence on weekends.

This was a difficult but important experience for the congregation. There was a wide range of opinion and feeling about Rob and the appropriate role of the congregation in his case. There were differing opinions about the pace with which the congregation moved toward resolution. Yet two and a half years after the charges were laid, the members of the congregation gathered for a special service of healing which represented an official conclusion to the congregation's public processing of the charge.

While the healing goes on, church members point to the personal and corporate gains that have come from their willingness to stand and work with hurting people - both abused and abuser.

Adapted from "A congregation responds to both sexual abuser and abused", Mennonite Reporter, April 19, 1993.


Dave Worth
MCC Ontario
54 Kent Ave.
Kitchener, Ont.
N2G 3R1
Tel. (519) 745-8458
Fax (519) 745-0064

Keeping Kids Safe - Children and Sexual Abuse, Yukon Territory

Keeping Kids Safe is a Yukon program that promotes a holistic approach to the protection of children from sexual abuse. While Keeping Kids Safe is not an alternative to a custody program per se, we include it in this compendium because it recognizes several key elements in a more effective, community-based approach to the problem of sexual offences in our midst. A program description acknowledges that neither jail nor offender treatment alone provides protection for children. Sexual offenders - both those who have served sentences and others who have never been caught - will continue to live in our communities. All adults who work or live with children should share the responsibility for keeping kids safe. Consequently, communities need help to manage and reduce the risk posed to children by those who commit sexual offences.

Currently, there are twelve offenders from five Yukon communities involved in the program's risk management teams which supervise them as they live and work in a community. All of them served a portion of their sentence in custody. The risk management teams are comprised of formal resource persons and individuals from the offender's family or social circle. They join with the offender on probation to first identify factors which put one at risk for re-offending and then set, monitor and enforce conditions to reduce these risks.

This approach gives families who may have an offender in their own family, social group or neighbourhood, the skills they need to best protect children. They learn to take away a person's opportunities to re-offend, e.g. never having a known offender babysit children.

The community safety aspect of the program has designed workshops to help adults understand, identify, respond to and prevent child abuse. They teach how to create environments which are safe for children.

Keeping Kids Safe started three years ago and is a joint venture of the Yukon Territorial Government, Health Canada and the Council for Yukon First Nations.


Joy Waters
Director of Community and Correctional Services
Box 2703
Whitehorse, Yukon
Y1A 2C6
Tel. (403) 667-8293
Fax (403) 667-6826

Coverdale Courtwork Services - Halifax, Nova Scotia

A Story

A woman was charged with 52 counts of shoplifting. She had a previous record for the same pattern of offences, had been sentenced in the past to serve one week in prison, and the Crown was looking this time for a more significant period of removal from the community.

Coverdale offered services to this woman to explore whether an alternate plan could be developed that would be acceptable to the Court. She had a pattern of making her negative choices around shoplifting in order to lavish gifts on her children. The focus of the work carried out with this woman was to develop suggestions for a sentence of "restorative measures" that would allow her to stay present with her family. She was married and her husband was supportive of her making restitution. It was felt that this woman needed a "wake-up call" about some aspects of her life that were out of control. It was impressed upon her that if she wanted to stay out of jail there were a number of things she would have to attend to. It was also impressed upon her that the Coverdale worker herself was "going out on a limb" by taking the witness stand in Court to propose an alternative to the prison sentence requested. The judge gave her six week-ends to serve in jail and a suspended sentence to report to the Coverdale worker, who was to notify the probation officer if signs of "breaching" were to become imminent. There has been no further occurrence for over two years.

Program Description

Coverdale Courtwork Services is a community organization for women in conflict with the law whose funding originated through the support of the churches from money raised as a result of closing down and selling a minimum security prison for women. Coverdale employs court workers in Saint John, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia to support women who are accused and to act as an intermediary with other helping organizations. It also provides a community chaplain in Halifax for individual counselling and casework to deal with such issues as abuse, grief, loss and anger management.

In their experience, the key elements in attempting to provide an alternative to incarceration which is accepted by the courts are the development of a definite plan and the willingness of the client to plead guilty. This has been effective in a number of cases, including the case of a woman charged with drug trafficking who had a previous record and for whom a sentence of at least 2 years in penitentiary had been expected. The alternate plan often includes counselling or therapy; an educational process with the woman; making links with her to other community agencies to help her meet different kinds of support groups; and reporting to probation.

Even well developed alternate plans, however, have not always been acceptable to the judge, as in the recent case of a woman charged with fraud and shoplifting who was sentenced to imprisonment anyway.

Coverdale staff have clearly observed that no long-term rehabilitation is possible through the jail sentences given women. Recidivism is a big problem because the minute a woman gets out she can only afford to live exactly where all the illegal action is. There is a lack of immediate support upon release; a core of well prepared volunteers with cars would be needed to meet the woman at the gate and help her through the first 48 hours, with a "buddy system" to fall back on for some significant period of time.


Kathleen Jennex, Mary Haylock
Suite 306
5670 Spring Garden Road
Halifax, N.S.
B3J 1H6
Tel. (902) 422-6417
Fax (902) 425-3160

Community-Based Supervision for Sentenced Offenders, New Brunswick

The John Howard Society of New Brunswick developed Community-Based Supervision for Sentenced Offenders (CBS) to work with continuous/intermittent sentenced offenders in an Enhanced Temporary Absence program. It provides enhanced home supervision of non-violent, low-risk offenders, specialized workshop participation, and has a community service component.


"The incarceration of 15,000 sentenced provincial and territorial inmates (and about 4,000 people remanded in custody) "eat" up 80 per cent of about one billion dollars annually. Why spend such a huge amount of resources to go through the process of admission and incarceration when incarceration of most of these offenders is not required for public protection? Why not seriously consider much cheaper and more effective alternatives?

...We must, as a society, adopt the concept that effective and efficient sentences for these offenders means, for the most part, non-incarceration. For these people , community sanctions must become the norm with incarceration as an alternative where necessary, rather than vice versa".

Willie Gibbs, Chair, National Parole Board

A Story

John Doe has been under the community supervision program twice. On the first occasion, he had been convicted of common assault on his girlfriend and sentenced to 30 days in prison. He served the mandatory one - third of his sentence in prison and was then released into the community supervision program for the second third of his sentence in order to get into schooling and participate in anger-management therapy. There was a reoccurrence of assaultive behaviour in the form of publicly yelled threats at his girlfriend at a later date. John Doe was convicted of two counts of assault and received a seven-month and a two-month prison sentence, to be served consecutively. He was released to community supervision following one third of his sentence. During this period, he enrolled in a vocational mechanics program, acquired a more stable living environment and lined up two part-time jobs that would not interfere with his schooling. He ended the program at the two-third statutory release point of his sentence. Community supervision workers said he had become self-sufficient, was able to take responsibility, improve appropriate behaviour and acquire a more solid place in the community.

Correctional institutions select eligible offenders who have already served one third of their sentence. They are then screened by the program staff; in any cases where assault or abuse is the current charge, the victim will be contacted and the victim must give approval to the plan of release; approved offenders are sent home to serve their sentence in the community under the supervision of a Phone Monitor who contacts participants daily. There is a "zero tolerance" policy with regard to following all the conditions of their release. All participants must have a phone and make themselves available to take all Phone Monitor calls personally.

The majority of charges are for breaches of probation conditions or default of fine payment, frauds, assaults such as bar fights, though there have been some sexual offences. The average length of sentence for anyone in the program is seven days in the case of full-time sentences and three days for intermittent sentences, although any person sentenced to a provincial institution is eligible.


Brian Saunders
Executive Director
The John Howard Society of New Brunswick Inc.
618 Queen Street, Suite 5
Fredericton, N.B. E3B 1C2
Tel. (506) 457-9810

Community Service - Intermittent Offenders, Barrie, Ontario

In Barrie, Ontario, The Salvation Army offers a community service opportunity to offenders facing intermittent sentence dispositions at the Barrie Jail. This program assists in the effective utilization of limited physical resources at the jail by providing alternative, creative community-based programming which in turn helps offenders to function better in the work place and in the community. Successful applicants serve one weekend at the jail, then report to the jail on Friday nights only and then to the Salvation Army site for transportation to work locations related to park maintenance and clean-up. In the event of poor weather, there is instruction and training related to alcohol and drugs, employment, education, health, etc.


Major David Thorburne
The Salvation Army
Simcoe County Correctional and Justice Services
14 High Street, Suite 203
Barrie, Ontario L4N 1W1
Tel. (705) 737-4140
Fax (705) 737-1009

Stop and Think Program - Temporary Absence Program for Youth - Halifax, Nova Scotia

In Halifax, the YMCA has developed the program, "Stop and Think", for youth serving a provincial sentence. It provides an alternative to custody through a temporary absence in the last three months of their sentence. The curriculum, which is available for males and females, includes adventure-based counselling, cognitive/life skills development and community service work. Parental involvement is a key element throughout.


Roger Peters
The Greater Halifax/Dartmouth Community YMCA
2269 Gottingen Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3K 3B7
Tel. (902) 422-9622
Fax (902) 423-8530

Other Variations

Québec continues to make extensive use of "early release" provisions through a range of prison- initiated community work and training activities (Programme d'Encadrement en Milieu Ouvert) or referrals to community-based resources. Some resources are more innovative in offering an alternative to incarceration to specific offender groups, for example to women, (Expansion-Femmes de Québec, Québec; Maison Thérèse Casgrain, Montréal), or to First Nations offenders (Maison Waseskun House, Montréal).

Various jurisdictions are seeking ways to reduce the administrative costs of these alternatives, which continue to require the process of admission and incarceration. In Québec, strategies are being developed to get out of the business of housing and lodging offenders so that the financial resources can be devoted to the clinical, social and reparative tasks that need to be facilitated.

In several European jurisdictions, judges are being encouraged to convert prison sentences of up to six months to community service orders or other types of immediate permission to serve the sentence in the community. In Italy, a form of house arrest has been introduced to offer the offender the possibility of serving a sentence of up to two years at home, in another private residence or in a treatment centre. It may be applied to convicted persons in special circumstances: for example, pregnant women or nursing mothers; mothers with children under the age of three; the elderly or disabled; young people under the age of 21 having to study, work or fulfil family obligations; and people with delicate health. (Alternative Measures to Imprisonment, Council of Europe, 1991)


Some Judges' Perceptions on Sentencing and Community-Based Programs

A number of Canadian judges have indicated to us that they are seeing the need to devise new and creative ways to approach their sentencing task: to relieve the overcrowding crisis, to look for different solutions and alternatives to incarceration and to respond to some communities and community agencies who want to take more responsibility for this.

A judge who has actually used "house arrest" feels it should be used more often in place of jail.

One judge expressed concern that, if the judiciary passes too much responsibility on to the community, they will not be able to provide the necessary services such as drug and alcohol programs, or anger-management counselling. It is for this reason that he continues, in cases of sexual assault for example - where the sentence would normally entail at least two years imprisonment - to resort to a sentence that keeps the offender close to home but may, as a fall-back position, have him incarcerated if community plans don't work out. To this end, he sees to it that arrangements can be made to allow him out on temporary absence immediately upon admission to prison (i.e. earlier than usual) and for as long as there are programs available in the community for his rehabilitation. Local correctional administrators participate in the sentencing hearing on such occasions, agree to the immediate temporary absence opportunity; and the probation order to be implemented at his eventual release is written so as to reflect this understanding.

"In essence what I have attempted to provide is a system whereby the community can, in fact, take full charge of an inmate using available programs in the community and yet maintain a sense of control by giving him a term of incarceration whereby the correctional service is in charge of the accused when he is not actually in a program which is beneficial to his rehabilitation. This I feel meets the demands and requests of the community that they become involved with the accused and yet satisfies the public that if the accused is not in such a program then he is under the control of the correctional institution."

However, another judge pointed out another additional element in sentencing, namely that society wants a period of incarceration for certain types of crime regardless of the likelihood of re-offending because they want the sentence to express punishment or abhorrence.

".... it may be that only a program of direct and measurable community benefit by way of substantial community service would satisfy the public that it is receiving greater overall benefit than through incarceration," he said. "I doubt whether society currently has the resources to establish/monitor such programs as a regular substitute for custody.

... Further, given the current economy and the difficulty in cost of finding assets to enforce payment, a program of heavy fines sufficient to make any realistic positive impact on the cost of the justice system is likely impossible. ....It seems to me that the current demand on the justice system to deal more strictly/punitively with offenders at every level will only change where society is persuaded by meaningful example that counselling/community service/rehabilitation will produce less future crimes/danger, at lower cost, than the current system."

[end of article]

2. Release Preparation for Successful Community Re-Integration

The availability of parole, and initiatives to better prepare prisoners for release, are also an important consideration in any effort to reduce the use of incarceration. Research has shown that the longer a person is removed from society, the weaker his or her social bonds are with other people, family, work and the economy. Weakened social bonds resulting from incarceration are likely to increase an offender's propensity to commit new crimes after release. Adjust-ment difficulties after the offender is released from prison, such as social rejection, may also influence re-offending behaviour (source: Lin Song, 1993).

Aboriginal Elder-Assisted Parole Board Hearings, Prairie Region, National Parole Board

The Prairie Region of the National Parole Board has initiated Aboriginal Elder-Assisted Panel Hearings, where the presence of an elder at the hearing provides a resource for the decision-makers and an inspirational force for the prisoner.

This initiative reflects the recognition that panel members unfamiliar with particular cultures and needs could benefit from the wisdom of someone intimately familiar with them. It helps the Board: examine the role of ethnocultural factors in attitudes, language, and values; identify sanctions and supports of a particular cultural community; assess their influence on the risk of re-offending, the reintegration potential of the prisoner and the management of risk on release.

In aboriginal communities, elders are spiritual leaders who have earned respect for personal wisdom and moral perseverance, through sacrifice, dedication and learning, and a holistic approach to issues. At the hearing, the elders' presence is affirming of the community; they are not strongly connected to the prison. Their role is to bring knowledge to the decision-makers, not to become experts on parole. The elder brings to the hearing an awareness and reminder of the spirituality of human beings. Prayer is offered to open the door for the Creator to enter; it is a request for honesty and respect among all involved, for protection of the board members, the offender and others, for the right decision to surface.

For the elder-assisted panels, the interviewing style and questions also differ slightly from regular panel hearings. The interviewing is to be conducted in a non-aggressive, non-confrontational manner and the questions are to focus on the offender's efforts towards healing of himself or herself, the victim and the community. The current situation, program participation and its benefits, and future plans are likely to receive more attention than the past or (the expression of) remorse. It is, however, the intention of every panel to address the risk assessment policies for parole decisions.

For the most part, the feedback has been very positive from staff, observers and offenders, whether they received a grant or denial from the panel. It is felt that the elder contributes to an atmosphere of respect unlike other hearings. Decisions are accepted without visible rancour, offenders tend to feel more satisfied with the process and the panel seems to be less tiring for board members and staff.

The Process for an Elder-Assisted Panel Hearing

  1. Heaing assistant verifies with offender outside the hearing room, whether the offender wishes to be present for prayer (if he does not, the prayer is conducted before the offender enters the room).
  2. In the hearing room, the hearing assistant or Board member shares with the elder a brief summary of the offender's file.
  3. Offender, case management and others are invited into the hearing room.
  4. Heading assistant leads introduction and ensures that the offender's rights with regard to the process have been respected.
  5. If requested by offender, the elder offers prayer.
  6. Update by case management on offender's file.
  7. Interview by Board members.
  8. Optional for elder: clarification of viewpoints expressed, particularly those of an aboriginal cultural nature.
  9. Offender's assistant is given the opportunity to speak to the Board members on the offender's behalf.
  10. Optional: break for the Board's deliberation. During a break only the Board members, Hearing Assistant and elder will remain in the hearing room. Board members are responsible and accountable for the decision but they may seek advice, particularly cultural, from the elder.
  11. Board members share decision with offender. All participants will be present for sharing of decision.
  12. Optional for elder: share wisdom/advice with offender.
  13. Adjourn

The following case history illustrates the kind of case and person who benefits from elder-assisted panels.

Criminal History

The offender is a 34-year-old male serving the remanet of an aggregate sentence of five years, six months, two days for possession for the purpose, assault, possession of goods obtained by crime, possession narcotics and three counts of break, enter and commit. The current term started in 1991 with a three-year sentence for the possession for the purpose conviction and 60 days concurrent for the assault conviction.

The assault was against his then common-law wife. Reportedly they were fighting over some drugs. Her injuries included a minor black eye, and some swelling and bruising of cheek.

There has been one prior conditional release granted. This was a day parole granted in April 1992 that was suspended in August 1992. The day parole suspension was cancelled in October 1992, with the day parole being suspended a second time and revoked in January 1993. While in the community on conditional release, the Offender committed the following offences: possess stolen property - 30 days consecutive; possess narcotic (Cannabis Resin) - 60 days consecutive; break and enter and commit, - 30 months consecutive.

The Offender's involvement with the law started when he was 18 years old and was convicted of Break and enter and Commit and received a $400 fine and one-year probation. His previous criminal career has consisted of six convictions for possession of narcotics; Break and enter and Theft, Theft under $1,000; and Break and enter and Commit. This is his first federal sentence. Previous sentences had involved 60 days, another of nine months, and the remaining were fines and probation periods. Previous to this sentence, he had completed all periods of probation and supervision without incident.

Personal Profile

Offender grew up in interior B.C as the second of two boys. His brother has had no criminal history. His father is now retired. His upbringing appears very normal. He reports that there was only one time that he remembers his father hitting him. He left school and home at age 15 because he did not want to abide by his curfew or his parents' rules. He never completed grade eight.

Since leaving home and school, he has been fully employed. Initially he worked odd jobs until he started working in the oil patch at 18. This is seasonal work and in between he has drawn unemployment insurance.

He was involved in his first common-law relationship at age 18. This lasted for seven years and they had two children, one of whom died at four. At time of sentence, he was involved in a second common-law relationship. His wife has two children from her previous relationship and they were expecting when he was charged.

While he has been convicted of assault, the information from his case management officers as well as police describes the offender as non-aggressive and non-violent.

Substance Abuse History

The offender reports having first used marijuana when nine years old. He has smoked hash and pot and used some cocaine. At one time he considered himself a drunk, just prior to this sentence commencing, but he now reports drinking only about once a week. Prior to this incarceration he never received drug or alcohol treatment.

Major Risk Needs identified through Correctional Assessment
  • abuse treatment/counselling
  • stability; and
  • pattern.


Irene Fraser
National Parole Board - Prairies
601, 229-4th Ave. S.
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
S7K 4K3
Tel (306) 975-5286
Fax (306) 975-5892

The Prairie Region of the Correctional Service Canada is also preparing to pilot a project whereby 40 to 70 prisoners will be given the opportunity to participate in a "circle process" with members of the community significant to them, including the victim(s) of their offence. The circle process is intended to assist in the development of their correctional plan as well as at several points in the process leading up to decisions pertaining to their release.


Rémi Gobeil
Deputy Commissioner
CSC - Prairies
Box 9223
Saskatoon, Sask.
S7K 3X5
Tel. (3060 975-4850
Fax (306) 975-5476

Entraide Détenu Anonyme - Early Release Program, Québec

In Québec, an innovative program has been started by a community agency in collaboration with the local prison to assist chronic repeat offenders who are serving prison sentences. They are released early to live on their own in the community for the purpose of this program, rather than to the agency's half-way house.

What was the average annual cost of incarceration by security level in a federal institution during 1993-94?

This tables lists average annual cost of incarceration by security level.
Security Level Average annua cost per offender
Maximum security $65,37
Women's facilities $78,221
Medium security $40,008
Minimum security an, Correctional farms $39,171
Community Correctional Centres $27,001*
Average annual cost $45,753**

* Community Correctional Centres (CCCs) primarily house offenders on day parole and are designated as minimum security institutions

**The average annual cost per offender includes those costs associated with the running of the institutions only and does not include parole related costs, transfer payments and operational costs of headquarters and capital expenditures; it also excludes the CORCAN revolving fund.

Basic Facts about Corrections in Canada 1994 Edition

Entraide détenu anonyme is particularly geared to prisoners who need support due to behaviour difficulties such as timidity, impulsiveness or aggressiveness. The program, which lasts 14 weeks, begins with 10 weeks of day programming at the half-way house facility, using adult education learning approaches in a group of five people. It is based on a holistic process to gently mobilize the energies and will of the participants, using the principles and techniques of psychosynthesis. It provides simple tools and user-friendly aids for personal study and reflection to help each participant identify individual aspirations, set personal objectives and develop as a personal "project" some realistic plans to meet certain goals. The dynamics of the small group are very mutually supportive as members share on a daily basis the challenges they are encountering in resuming their life in the community. For the remaining four weeks each person receives individual support as he carries out the plans he has made. This initiative has received a very enthusiastic response to date from all those involved; its holistic approach appears to be particularly helpful for dynamically engaging offenders in their own self-motivated participation in a constructive lifestyle in the community.


Guy Dalphond
Maison Radisson
962 Ste-Geneviève
CP 1075
Trois- Rivières, Québec
G9A 5K4
Tel. (819) 379-3623
Fax (819) 379-3464


In France, a new program has been set up offering information and guidance for prisoners recently freed in the Paris region. This new service is original in that it brings together in a single location a team of social workers and a number of representatives from institutions and associations, responsible for emergency housing, social security, employment, health and so on. The aim is to propose ways of integrating the person concerned who can thereby regain his personal, professional and social identity(Alternative Measures to Imprisonment, Council of Europe, 1991).

Interesting initiatives to offer resources to assist prisoners upon release have also been taken in other jurisdictions, by community members who are former prisoners themselves, by other community members and by specialized agencies.

Groupes Sentences-vie, Montréal, Québec

Community volunteers coordinated by Le Conseil des Eglises pour la justice et la criminologie reach in to prisoners serving life sentences by attending the meetings of the Groupes sentences-vie. They assist them in maintaining and strengthening their ties to family and community, and actively preparing for their judicial review when required.


Huguette Sauvé
2715 chemin de la Côte Ste-Catherine
Suite 322
Montréal, Québec
H3T 1B6
Tel. (514) 738-5075
Fax (514) 731-0676

Life Line - Windsor, Ontario

Life Line, a project of St. Leonard's House, Windsor, was specifically designed to contact all the men and women serving life sentences in federal penitentiaries in Ontario, and facilitate a structured and individualized release plan for each one. It begins by reaching in to the Lifers in the prison to assist them in managing the course of their sentence while incarcerated, and to prepare for their judicial review and/or parole. The majority of Lifers (75 per cent) have never been in a penitentiary before. In many cases, this homicide is the first crime they have ever committed. They have the highest success rate of never repeating their offence - 98.4 per cent. The goal is to provide them with community support and an opportunity for gradual and supervised reintegration into the community with public safety as a prime consideration. They are also working to encourage other communities to assume this responsibility and make the national exchange of resources for Lifers possible across the country.


Skip Graham
St. Leonard's House
491 Victoria avenue
Windsor, Ontario
N9A 4N1
Tel. (519) 256-1878
Fax (519) 256-4142

Project Another Chance, Kingston, Ontario

Project Another Chance (PAC) is a new, non-profit organization established in Kingston to provide women who are or have been in conflict with the law access to a range of services and resources. The project tries to help these women address their physical, emotional, intellectual and social needs in a caring manner which promotes a sense of personal growth.

Comprised of a tiny staff and over 40 well trained volunteers, including several ex-offenders, P.A.C. is forging a community link for Prison for Women inmates and ex-offenders through the maintenance of an up-to-date data bank of information on community resources, a prison newsletter and a crisis phone centre. The "Right-On Line" will offer inmates a sympathetic ear within local calling range whereby they can vent their feelings of rage, fear, anger and confusion. Volunteers are trained in suicide intervention and active/supportive listening skills and are equipped with the information to give service users further referrals whenever necessary. Future workshops will train volunteers in such areas as anger, self-injury, sexual assault, and grief and bereavement.

Sensitive to the particular problems facing native inmates, Project Another Chance offers special training on native culture/issues as part of its volunteer orientation.


"A life sentence condemns the prisoner and his family to a lifetime of longing and grief. The dull hopelessness I see in the eyes of many prisoners, including (my son) Peter is, to me, a manifestation of the evil of the justice system."

Joan Stothard, The Fight of her Life, The Globe and Mail

The participation of ex-offenders in the project offers a special link for parolees experiencing the difficulties of re-entry into the community-at-large. P.A.C. founder Melissa Stewart recounts the story of one woman she peer-counselled upon the latter's release on parole. "Marge" had lost many of her life-skills during her sixteen years in prison. For Melissa, Marge's hurt, confusion and lack of self-esteem upon re-entry into society were evocative of many of her own early reactions to parole. Over many months, Melissa provided Marge a sympathetic ear and practical information on basic cooking, math and English skills. Gradually, Marge's confidence grew; she was able to upgrade at school, and was finally able to feel comfortable as a member of the outside community.


The arguments that psychiatrist Thomas Szasz directs against involuntary commitment to mental hospitals apply equally to the involuntary incarceration of offenders - the political nature of the process, the violation of civil rights, the inevitability of abuses in places hidden from public view, and the corrosive effects of the institutional routine upon everyone connected with it.

The End of Imprisonment, Robert Sommer

The decision to make good on one's parole is a major change in lifestyle, and like any other, takes courage and commitment. The unconditional love and practical guidance that Melissa and Project Another Chance's volunteers offer women like Marge empowers them to make this choice.


Melissa Stuart
Project Another Chance
P.O. Box 1801
Kingston, Ontario
K7L 5J6
Tel. (613) 544-9100
Fax (613) 544-4181

Post-Release Offender Project - Aboriginal Legal Services, Toronto, Ontario

Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto is seeking to establish a post-release offender project to integrate into the aboriginal community of Toronto the many aboriginal offenders who have little option but to remain there. It is believed that regaining one's Native spiritual heritage is a way of healing and reducing recidivism.


Patti Mcdonald
Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto
197 Spadina Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M5T 2C8,
Tel. (416) 408-3967
Fax (416) 408-4268

Respect Program, Brandon, Manitoba

The Respect Program (Release & Employment Support Planning Effecting Constructive Tomorrow), sponsored by the John Howard Society of Brandon, supports upon release provincially-sentenced men who are at risk of re-offending because of a history of unstable employment. Their Release Planning Course also provides opportunities to hear from community resource people the options available in the community for various issues. As a result of this course, many apply for early release because they have renewed options in the community.


Russell Loewen
John Howard Society of Brandon
220 - 8th Street
Brandon, Manitoba
R7A 3X3
Tel. (204) 727-1696
Fax (204) 728-4344

3. Wilderness Camps

Wilderness Camps offer residential programs in a wilderness environment to young offenders, some of whom are currently serving open custody or are on probation.

In some jurisdictions they are designated as "one-below containment"; they are thought to reduce custody, in that youth sent there would otherwise be placed in custody. Camp Trapping in British Columbia and Project Dare in Ontario are two examples of wilderness camps that combine a challenging outdoor survival and cooperative living experience with group counselling that seeks to strengthen self-awareness and develop self-confidence and self-esteem.

Wilderness camps are positive experiences for some youth. However, while in theory this program can prove to be enhancing for some young people with an otherwise stable home environment and lifestyle, any short-term benefits can be quickly undermined if the youth goes back to the same difficult community conditions that contributed to his or her criminal behaviour to begin with. Research indicates that intensive follow-up supervision enabling youth to pursue education, training, treatment and counselling back home are the key factors to whether or not a camp experience will be seen to be having a lasting positive impact (National Crime Prevention Council, 1995).

Unfortunately, there exists a broad spectrum of types of camps ranging from the wilderness model described above to increasingly discipline-centered and military-style boot camps. Regrettably, the political climate which is currently fostering a new interest in promoting more "camps" for young offenders is fuelled significantly by a desire to increase the punitive dimension of the response to youth crime; politicians recommending this development stress the elements of suffering and harsh labour to send a message about deterrence and punishment that they believe will reduce future crime. The best available evidence, however, points to the fact that this is not an effective tool for this purpose; unfortunately, there is now a great risk that this message will erode the positive elements of wilderness camps such as those described above.

It is understandable that people are frustrated with the justice system; they know that what we have been doing is not working. They want to "get tough" on crime and they believe, because politicians are not telling them otherwise, that the way to do so is to put more people in jail and keep them there longer. Politicians who want to save money by decreasing prison populations and prison costs are attempting to create alternative forms which are appealing because they will increase the suffering during the sentence. This is not a smart way to get tough, nor to save money. It merely increases the waste of tax dollars because it fails to address the real problems.

Politicians who want to save money by decreasing prison populations and prison costs are attempting to create alternative forms which are appealing because they will increase the suffering during the sentence. This is not a smart way to get tough, nor to save money. It merely increases the waste of tax dollars because it fails to address the real problems.

Because of this pressure for more punitive camps, it is important to recall American research which cites evidence from more than 65 U.S. boot camps that they do not reduce recidivism (MacKenzie and Souryal, 1995). Another study of eight boot-camp prisons revealed that programs which provide only physical training, hard labour and discipline may actually increase rates of recidivism (MacKenzie and Souryal). There is evidence that they reduce prison overcrowding only if program admissions are tightly controlled to ensure that spaces are provided solely to prison-bound offenders. However, this is often not the case; boot camps typically admit to their programs non-violent offenders with no prior incarceration record, in other words those who might otherwise have been sentenced to probation or community-based alternatives rather than prison. As such, correctional costs may actually rise with the implementation of boot camps while the prison population remains relatively constant or even increases (Parent, 1995). Some state boot camps even cost as much or more per day than regular prisons (Cronin, 1994). Arizona Corrections is terminating this sentencing alternative because it is not an effective use of prison funds or staff time. Wilderness Camps in British Columbia have also recently been suspended pending an investigation.

When people are frustrated with the system, what they are often really calling for is a response that deals with offenders more effectively, and a response that gets tougher on the causes of crime as well. Wilderness Camps may help a few individuals but they are not an alternative that can answer to these needs, nor provide satisfying justice.

4. House Arrest

A Few Stories

A man in his seventies was convicted of tobacco fraud involving approximately $10,000 in cigarettes. The judge sentenced him to two years probation and fined him $10,000, with the first three months to consist of house arrest. Two other men convicted for the same incident received a jail sentence.

For those three months, this man was: not to be more than 500 feet outside his home and could only leave his property for authorized medical treatment; not to consume alcohol; to restrict visits to family members, only two at a time, on Sundays between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. (in addition, the judge named three family members who could not visit together).

While the judge cited the man's age and health as reasons contributing to the non-custodial sentence, this man's probation officer felt the sentence was "an excellent one that would make sense for others not as old or sick". The probation officer said this man found the sentence quite onerous. He was relieved when the house arrest ended.

A judge wrote us to recommend house arrest more often in place of jail. He recounted a case where a man was charged with sexual assault, "not a serious kind but it was sexual assault". Before his arrest, he had been considered a model citizen. His wife had died violently leaving him with a 16-year-old daughter to care for. He began drinking and the offence occurred while under the influence. "I had the option of sending him to jail whereupon he would have lost a well paying job and left a daughter vulnerable. There was a human cry to jail him. Instead of jail I chose house arrest. I suspended his sentence for one year, placed him on probation with the following clauses: he was allowed to leave his home at 6:30 each morning to drive from the South Shore to his job at the Halifax waterfront, returning by 6:30 p.m. He had to attend for treatment as well. Except for travelling to and from his place of employment or counselling, where he could travel alone or going for groceries when his daughter had to accompany him, he had to remain at home. To monitor him, a probation officer was assigned to phone him at random hours. The sentence worked without a hitch. No cost for jail, no loss of employment, treatment for his sexual and alcohol misbehaviour and, most important, the family remained together."

The judge felt an electronic monitoring bracelet system should be tied to house arrest. We look at this option next.

5. A Note About Electronic Monitoring

Electronic monitoring or surveillance as a correctional measure consists in verifying the presence of a convicted person in a given location by means of high technology equipment. This is done either through telephone checks (passive surveillance) or the continual monitoring of individuals as they wear bracelets which emit signals (active surveillance). This active system is the one which has been most frequently implemented, as well as a combination of the two methods.

The objectives of electronic monitoring are universally stated to be to reduce the prison population and to protect society effectively with minimal social and economic costs. It was invented in the United States and its use has been experimented throughout that country as well as in England, several European countries and several Canadian provinces. In the U.S. alone from 1987 to 1991, its use tripled every year (Schmidt, 1985). This popularity can be attributed to prison overcrowding, the economic crisis and disillusionment vis-à-vis probation caseloads that are feared to make supervision highly ineffectual (Latulippe, ASRSQ, 1994).

According to a recent study by the U.S. National Institute of Corrections, there is growing evidence that the system needs re-evaluation: the technology and methods are far from error-free and offenders often disappear from their homes. Such technology is not what can be counted on to ensure public safety. Electronic tagging also fails to address the many other socio-economic conditions and reparative issues related to justice and crime prevention; the John Howard Society of Newfoundland operates one of the only "bracelet" programs to include a rehabilitative component. In many programs, offenders must themselves pay for all or a portion of the cost of the program. Poor offenders often do not have the funds, nor decent housing in which to spend their sentence, nor a telephone, and are therefore not afforded equal access to this sentencing alternative.

While electronic monitoring has been known to put additional stress on some families, many have experienced it as a more humane form of sentencing than incarceration. And it would appear that it has posed no greater risk to society than incarceration would have: its recidivism rate is almost nil, according to all the literature reviewed by Latulippe. There is a good chance that this can be attributed, however, to the very select population that is allowed to benefit from it, rather than to the program itself. The research indicates that it is often added on to probation for people who would not otherwise be jailed, or used for people released from prison who could have more appropriately been referred to other existing resources. It has, in fact, also incurred greater costs than anticipated and has not reduced prison populations or prison costs in most jurisdictions.

Electronic surveillance has been aggressively marketed by high-tech companies and there is certainly a profit to be made not only from equipment requirements, but from all the derivative gadgets that are surfacing to "disarm" the equipment, to "detect" the disarming equipment, and so on. It also necessitates that a minimum population be serviced, which has led at least two Canadian jurisdictions to widen the net with low-risk offenders in order to meet the quota (Latulippe, ASRSQ, 1994).

It is a technology for whom a clientele has been artificially created and inflated, rather than a technology put to rational good use in service of the community's real needs. Its main function is strictly to "reassure the public", and at the moment it is providing an illusory and needlessly expensive "false" reassurance.