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COVID-19 and Temporary Absence Permits

In Ontario, provincial inmates can apply for Temporary Absence Permits (“TAPs”), which could take on a more important role during the COVID-19 outbreak.

TAPs allow inmates to leave the institution for a certain period of time, but only if the decision-maker believes “it is necessary or desirable that an inmate be temporarily absent from a correctional institution for medical or humanitarian reasons or to assist the inmate in his or her rehabilitation”.

Inmates can apply for TAPs before their regular parole eligibility, at any point in their sentence. The Board must review the application within 30 days of receiving the application. A hearing may be scheduled to allow the inmate to answer questions the Board may have or make submissions about why they should be granted a TAP. If granted, conditions can be placed on the TAP.

The Superintendent of a jail can grant a TAP of up to 72 hours, but the Ontario Parole Board can grant TAPs that last much longer: for days or even weeks. It is possible for inmates to be released on a TAP, attend their parole hearing, and then be released on parole for the remainder of their sentence.

Inmates who are elderly or otherwise vulnerable to COVID-19 may meet the criteria for a TAP on the basis of the medical or humanitarian grounds. However, we take the position that in considering all TAP applications, the Ontario Parole Board must take notice of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health risks posed by overcrowded jails, and the social distancing measures in place across the country. All of these are relevant to public safety–the Board’s paramount consideration.

The COVID-19 outbreak is also a change of circumstances that may justify reconsideration of a TAP denial. This is particularly true for offenders who are at a greater risk of COVID-19 or whose release plans have been impacted by the outbreak. We’ve recently been granted reconsideration of a TAP denial on the basis of the COVID-19 outbreak, with a TAP granted by the Board on reconsideration.

Releasing inmates on TAPs may pose a risk to public safety, but continuing to overcrowd jails may also pose a risk to public safety. Contact us today if you’re looking for assistance applying for a TAP or challenging a denial of a TAP.

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