Is COVID-19 relevant to parole decision-making?
- Kate Mitchell
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Since the pandemic began, we’ve been making the argument that COVID-19 is relevant to parole decision-making. Recent case law has confirmed that the Parole Board of Canada and provincial parole boards are expected to consider the impacts of COVID-19.
According to the Parole Board of Canada’s website, the Board now agrees that COVID-19 may be considered as part of the Board’s legal obligation to consider all relevant available information related to an offender’s case. The website outlines:
“Information regarding the offender’s health or health risk posed by the COVID-19 pandemic will be considered if relevant as part of the risk assessment, along with all other information on file.”
It remains unclear whether the Board is considering COVID-19 only in the context of those who are most at risk (e.g. elderly prisoners, prisoners with pre-existing medical conditions) or whether the Board is taking a broader approach. Parole decisions do not always discuss COVID-19, so it is not always clear what role (if any) the pandemic had in a particular case.
It remains our position that COVID-19 is relevant to all parole decisions. Every person released from custody, whether vulnerable to severe complications/outcomes or not, helps flatten the curve and prevent the healthcare system from being overburdened. So in every case, COVID-19 is relevant to the risk assessment the Board must perform. If a prisoner is denied parole and the Board does not reference COVID-19 in it’s decision, then that could be a basis to appeal the decision.
For assistance with a parole hearing or parole appeal, contact us today.