Are parole hearings different for Dangerous Offenders?
- Kate Mitchell
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Dangerous Offenders serving indeterminate sentences are eligible for parole 7 years from the time they were taken into custody. This does not mean that Dangerous Offenders will necessarily receive parole after 7 years. This only means that Dangerous Offenders are entitled to have their cases reviewed by the Parole Board of Canada, who will either grant or deny parole.
If a Dangerous Offender serving an indeterminate sentence is denied parole, then they are entitled to a review every two years. It’s very possible that a Dangerous Offender may never be granted parole and spend the rest of their life in prison.
Hearings for Dangerous Offenders are procedurally the same as for other types of offenders. Dangerous Offenders are asked questions by the Board, and they are entitled to (before the hearing) receive the information being considered by the Board, have an assistant present, etc. The test for parole is also the same for Dangerous Offenders and other types of prisoners. The Board is concerned with whether granting the prisoner parole would pose an undue risk to the community, and whether release on parole would facilitate the reintegration of the prisoner.
However, the Parole Board of Canada has different obligations when it comes to Dangerous Offenders serving indeterminate sentences.
The constitutionality of the Dangerous Offender regime depends on having parole reviews that ensure sentences are being tailored to Dangerous Offenders’ unique circumstances. The Board is supposed to, for example, consider whether the prisoner’s Case Management Team and correctional plan have been customized to fit the circumstances of the prisoner and if efforts are being made to prepare that prisoner for conditional release.
The Board may consider and make recommendations to Correctional Service Canada regarding treatment interventions, programs, and other steps that can be taken to help tailor a Dangerous Offender’s sentence. That said, the Board does not have power over CSC or the prisoner’s Case Management Team. This can sometimes lead to an impasse, with the Board insisting a prisoner take certain steps and CSC not making the necessary resources available. Dangerous Offenders in this situation should contact a lawyer for advice.