What case preparation is done prior to a provincial parole hearing?
- Kate Mitchell
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Provincial prisoners (those serving two years or less) are eligible for parole after serving one-third of their sentences. If a prisoner is serving 6 months or longer, a parole hearing is automatically scheduled prior to their prisoner’s parole eligibility date. Prisoners serving less than 6 months need to apply for a parole hearing, as there may not be enough time for a parole hearing to be held prior to their release.
Before a parole hearing, various steps need to take place to ensure the Ontario Parole Board has enough information to assess the prisoner’s case.
The Institution Liaison Officer will typically interview prisoners to prepare their parole plans. The Institutional Liaison Officer will want to know things like where the prisoner will live, how they will support themselves, who they will associate with, etc. It is generally best to provide all supporting documents at this stage, such as leases or letters from whoever is offering the prisoner accommodations, employment offers, letters from counsellors outlining treatment that will be done while the prisoner is on parole, support letters, the prisoner’s own release plan (which can be handwritten), and any other supporting documents.
This parole plan is then provided to a Probation and Parole Officer, who assesses the plan, investigates, and prepares a Pre-Parole Report. The Probation and Parole Officer may contact parole sponsors, employers, anyone a prisoner plans to live with, and friends and family listed in the parole plan. If the Probation and Parole Officer is unable to contact someone or confirm information, then this could negatively impact the Pre-Parole Report. Therefore, prisoners should ensure the contact information they provide is up-to-date and that everyone listed in their parole plan is aware they may be contacted to verify information.
The Pre-Parole Report is provided to the Board, and it provides the Board with an overview and assessment of the prisoner’s release plan. It often provides an opinion on whether the prisoner’s risk is manageable on that plan, and therefore whether parole should be granted or denied. A copy of this report is supposed to be provided to the prisoner at least 48 hours before the parole hearing. It is helpful to review this document before the hearing since it can give a good preview as to which issues the Board will be most concerned about and want to explore at the hearing.
Every prisoner is allowed to have a lawyer attend their parole hearing. Those who want legal assistance should contact a lawyer as early as possible. In fact, contacting a lawyer before sentencing is often the most helpful, since steps can be taken early on to prepare for parole and avoid certain challenges down the road. At minimum, prisoners should contact counsel several weeks before the hearing. It can take time for the Ontario Parole Board to approve an assistant’s request to attend a hearing and respond to a disclosure request. Moreover, if a lawyer identifies missing documents or needs to provide any written submissions, this can take time.