Does provincial parole by exception exist?
- Kate Mitchell
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Provincial prisoners typically need to serve one-third of their sentence before they are eligible for parole. However, parole can be granted “at any time where, in the opinion of the Board, compelling or exceptional circumstances exist that warrant the inmate’s parole”.
Unfortunately, there is no clear guidance in the Ministry of Correctional Services Act or its regulations as to what constitutions “compelling or exceptional circumstances”.
Prisoners in the federal system are also eligible for parole by exception, that is parole prior to their parole eligibility dates (other than prisoners serving indeterminate sentences or life sentences imposed as a minimum). The Corrections and Conditional Release Act sets out that parole by exception can be granted to a federal prisoner:
(a) who is terminally ill;
(b) whose physical or mental health is likely to suffer serious damage if the offender continues to be held in confinement
(c) for whom continued confinement would constitute an excessive hardship that was not reasonably foreseeable at the time the offender was sentenced; or
(d) who is the subject of an order of surrender under the Extradition Act and who is to be detained until surrendered.
While this is not determinative of what would entitle a provincial prisoner to parole by exception, a similarly high bar would likely be used for provincial prisoners seeking parole prior to their parole eligibility dates.
Provincial prisoners seeking release prior to their parole eligibility dates could also consider applying for a temporary absence permits. To grant a temporary absence permit the Ontario Parole Board needs to be satisfied that “it is necessary or desirable” to grant the temporary absence “for medical or humanitarian reasons or to assist the inmate in his or her rehabilitation”. Again, there is no clear guidance in the legislation or regulations as to when it will be necessary or desirable.
The language used suggests that the Ontario Parole Board sets a high bar to grant parole by exception and temporary absence permits. So prisoners seeking a form of release prior to their parole eligibility date should start thinking about their applications early and ensure they have the necessary documents to support their claims.