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Issue

The current election has brought more talk of crime policy and new laws to keep prisoners in longer. Canada has
a provision requiring the release, after two-thirds of their time, of prisoners sentenced to two years or more. But
releasing prisoners is not just about ‘time’. This provision ensures that their re-entry into community, from a
prison environment, is guaranteed to be supervised, with specific conditions that can be monitored for
accountability and support. The elimination of this provision is now under debate. Some are saying that
abolishing this form of release with conditions (technically known as “statutory release” or SR) would create
positive outcomes in the community and reductions in re-offending. However, this assumption is contrary to
many years of research. A gradual, controlled, and supervised release is much more likely to aid offenders in
becoming productive, law-abiding citizens. Some faith communities have provided support to former prisoners to
help them develop a sense of belonging in the community through programs such as
Mentorship/Aftercare/Presence (MAP) and Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA). This is the most effective
way of ensuring public safety.

Background

Statutory release is the release of an inmate from a federal institution following the completion of two-thirds of
his or her sentence. It is by no means a provision without exceptions or safeguards. Inmates serving life and
indeterminate sentences are not entitled to SR. It applies to those inmates who failed to apply for parole or who
were denied parole in the past. SR is not automatic. Current legislation permits the detention of federal inmates
beyond their SR date to “warrant expiry”, the very last day they can legally be kept in custody.

The primary purpose of statutory release is to ensure the supervision of high-risk offenders upon their release
into the community, aiding in their successful reintegration. Inmates who are granted statutory release must
abide by a number of conditions, such as remaining within a specific area determined by their parole
supervisor, keeping the peace, being of good behaviour, obeying the law, and regular reporting to their parole
supervisor and the police. The National Parole Board may also impose additional conditions. The violation of any
of these conditions could result in an individual’s return to the penitentiary.

In 2006-07:

 5,250 inmates were on statutory release, encompassing 65% of all releases from federal institutions.
 Over 97% of those on statutory release DID NOT violently re-offend.
 Offenders who participated in CoSA had an overall reduction of 72% in all types of re-offending compared to
those who did not participate in a supportive, faith-based program.

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Implications

If statutory release is abolished:

• More people will spend longer periods of time behind bars, which has been associated with an increase in rates of
re-offending.
• Fewer will be granted this release with conditions. This means that they will not be supervised in the community
at a lower cost. They will not be subject to conditions upon release, such as residency in a halfway house or be
required to participate in programs/treatment that have been shown to be more effective when delivered in the
community, rather than in prison.
• More inmates will be held until the end of their sentence. These will be individuals who are at highest risk of
reoffending. Upon release, they will have no obligation to report or to abide by conditions of the Correctional
Service of Canada.

Estimates suggest that eliminating SR will result in:

$ An approximate increase of the average federal penitentiary population of 2,310 inmates at any point in time.
$ Additional operating costs of $203 million annually.
$ Capital costs of over $924 million to build 5 major institutions that would be required to accommodate the
growing prison population.

It would be smarter to spend this money on services for the whole community. “Every dollar invested in early years
saves $9 in future spending on health, welfare and justice systems.” (Dr David Butler-Jones, Canada’s Chief Public
Health Officer, 2008).

References:

Bonta, J. & Andrews, D., Risk-Need Responsivity Model for Offender Assessment and Rehabilitation (2007)
http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/res/cor/rep/_fl/Risk_Need_2007-06_e.pdf

Canadian Criminal Justice Association. “Justice Report” (Winter 2008) 23:1

Chen, M.K. & Shaprio, J.M. “Do Harsher Prison Conditions Reduce Recidivism? A Discontinuity-based Approach.” American Law and
Economics Review (2007) 9: 1-29.

Circles of Support and Accountability: http://www.ccjc.ca/cosa.html

Cost of supervising an offender in the community: $23,105 annually. Cost of average federally incarcerated inmate: $88,067
annually. National Parole Board, Myths and Realities of the NPB (March 2001) < http://www.npb-cnlc.gc.ca/whatsn/myths053
001_e.htm>.

Mentorship/Aftercare/Presence: www.mapottawa.com

National Parole Board, Myths and Realities of the NPB (March 2001) < http://www.npbcnlc.gc.ca/whatsn/myths053001_e.htm>.

National Parole Board, Performance Monitoring Report (2006-2007). <http://www.npbcnlc.gc.ca/reports/pdf/pmr_2006_2007/index-


eng.htm>.
Wilson, Cortoni, & McWhinnie. (2007). Circles of Support and Accountability: A National Replication of Outcome Findings.
http://www.ccjc.ca/initatives/r168_e.pdf

www.ccjc.ca/educate.html