Types of release

Most of Canada's federal offenders serve part of their sentences in institutions. The rest of their time is served in the community, where they must follow certain conditions and are supervised by parole officers. Under current legislation, there are different types of releases for offenders:

  • temporary absences
    • escorted temporary absence (ETA)
    • unescorted temporary absence (UTA)
    • work release
  • day parole
  • full parole
  • statutory release
  • release on expiry of sentence

Conditional release

The Parole Board of Canada (PBC) has exclusive authority to grant both day parole and full parole. The PBC bases parole on information and assessments that CSC prepares.

The Corrections and Conditional Release Act provides authority to grant parole, as does the respective provincial legislation. Before granting such releases, PBC members must be satisfied that the offender:

  • will not pose undue risk to the community, and
  • will fulfill specific conditions

For inmates in federal, territorial, and many provincial institutions the PBC has exclusive jurisdiction and absolute discretion to:

  • grant parole
  • deny parole
  • terminate parole, or
  • revoke parole
  • revoke the statutory release of an offender

Cases under the jurisdiction of provincial parole boards are the exception.

CSC supervises offenders on parole or statutory release to ensure that they adhere to the conditions of release set by the PBC.

Temporary absences

The Corrections and Conditional Release Act identifies three types of temporary absences from prison:

  • escorted temporary absences
  • unescorted temporary absences, and
  • work releases

Both federal and provincial correctional legislation allow for temporary absences. In the federal system, the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) and Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) share responsibility for temporary absences.

CSC may grant temporary releases when it considers there is limited risk that the inmate will reoffend during the absence. The temporary absence must also fit within the framework of the inmate's correctional plan.

Temporary absences may be granted for a variety of reasons:

  • medical
  • administrative
  • community service
  • family contact
  • parental responsibility
  • personal development (rehabilitation)
  • compassionate

Escorted temporary absence (ETA)

An escorted temporary absence (ETA) is a release in which an inmate leaves the institution accompanied by one or more escorts. Inmates can take part in ETAs either alone or as a member of a group. ETAs:

  • are of limited duration - but medical absences may be unlimited
  • may be granted at any time in an offender's sentence

Unescorted temporary absence (UTA)

An unescorted temporary absence (UTA) is when an inmate leaves the institution unaccompanied by CSC staff. UTAs are releases of limited duration and CSC grants them for one of the reasons previously indicated. Inmates must have served part of their sentence before being eligible to apply for a UTA. Inmates classified as maximum security are not eligible for UTAs.

Work release

Work release involves work or community service outside the institution. It is a structured program of release and is established for a specified period of time. A staff member or other authorized person or organization supervises work releases. Inmates who are eligible for a UTA are also eligible to apply for a work release.

Day parole

Day parole provides offenders with the opportunity to take part in ongoing community-based activities. Usually the offender resides at a correctional institution or community-based residential facility. Offenders are also granted day parole to prepare for full parole and statutory release.

Eligibility dates

Offenders become eligible for day parole after serving the longer of two times, either:

  • 6 months before eligibility for full parole or after serving 6 months - if serving sentences of two years or more
  • 3 years before eligibility for full parole or after serving 3 years - if serving life or indeterminate sentences

Full parole

Full parole is a form of conditional release that allows an offender to serve part of a prison sentence in the community. CSC supervises the offender and they must abide by conditions designed to:

  • reduce the risk of re-offending, and
  • foster reintegration of the offender into the community

Under full parole, offenders do not have to return nightly to an institution. They must report regularly to a parole supervisor, and in certain cases, to the police.

Offenders (except those serving life sentences for murder) may apply for full parole after serving the lesser of either:

  • a third of their sentence, or
  • 7 years

Offenders serving life sentences for first-degree murder may apply for full parole, after serving 25 years. Dates for offenders serving life sentences for second-degree murder are set between 10 and 25 years by the court.

Statutory release

Statutory release requires federally sentenced inmates to serve the final third of their sentence in the community. CSC supervises them and imposes conditions of release similar to full parole. Inmates serving life or indeterminate sentences are not eligible.

Offenders on statutory release are inmates who either:

  • did not apply for release on parole, or
  • were denied release on full parole

Legislation mandates statutory release. This means it is not conditional and is not granted by the PBC. But the PBC can keep an inmate in the institution after their statutory release by issuing a detention order. This occurs if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the inmate is likely to commit:

  • an offence causing serious harm or death
  • a sexual offence involving a child, or
  • a serious drug offence

By issuing a detention order, the inmate remains incarcerated after their statutory release.

Release on expiry of sentence

Release on expiry of sentence is not a conditional release. It is the full release an inmate receives after serving their entire sentence. It applies to inmates considered too dangerous to return to the community under statutory release.

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