Parole and Community Corrections
Most of Canada's federal offenders serve only part of their sentences in prison. Part of their time is served in the community, where they adhere to certain conditions and are supervised by professional staff of the Correctional Service of Canada. The work of gradually releasing offenders, ensuring that they do not present a threat to anyone, and helping them adjust to life beyond prison walls is called community corrections. Such work is essential because experience has shown most criminals are more likely to become law-abiding citizens if they participate in a program of gradual, supervised release.
The Correctional Service of Canada is dedicated to protecting society by controlling offenders and by helping them change the attitudes and behaviours that led them into criminal activity. The first steps toward change are taken in the prison setting. But if the change is to last, it must continue in the community, where almost all offenders eventually return. The transition from confinement to freedom can be difficult; offenders have a better chance of success if they receive supervision, opportunities, training and support within the community.
Conditional release occurs only after a thorough assessment of the safety risks that offenders may pose to society. Offenders who appear unlikely to commit crimes or break certain rules may go on conditional release, as an incentive to make positive changes in their lives. In addition, the law requires the release of offenders who have served two thirds of their sentence, but only if they are not considered dangerous. Both types of offenders must abide by specific conditions, when they are back in the community and carefully supervised by CSC staff. If offenders violate the rules, they may be sent back to prison. Moreover, CSC works to prepare offenders for eventual release, through prison programs that promote law-abiding lifestyles. Such programming continues while offenders are on conditional release.
The authority to grant parole is found in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), and the respective provincial legislation. The authority for temporary absences is found in both federal and provincial correctional legislation and is exercised by correctional authorities in provincial and territorial systems. In the federal system, the responsibility for temporary absences is shared between the National Parole Board (NPB) and the Correctional Service of Canada.
Under the CCRA, the NPB has exclusive jurisdiction and absolute discretion to grant, deny, terminate or revoke parole for inmates in federal, territorial, and many provincial institutions, except for cases under the jurisdiction of provincial parole boards. The National Parole Board may also, when applicable, revoke the statutory release of an offender.
The National Parole Board relies on the CSC to prepare reports and recommendations on the cases that come before the Board. The Correctional Service of Canada supervises offenders on parole or statutory release to ensure that they adhere to the conditions of release set by the National Parole Board.