Frequently asked questions about the release of offenders
- Release of offenders
- Dealing with high-risk offenders
- National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR)
- National DNA Data Bank
- DNA legislation amendments
Release of offenders
Q. What is a Warrant Expiry Date?
A Warrant Expiry Date (WED) is the date the criminal sentence officially ends, as imposed by the courts at the time of sentencing.
Offenders who reach their WED after completing their entire sentence are no longer under the jurisdiction of Correctional Service Canada (CSC). Neither CSC nor the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) can lengthen or shorten a court sentence.
Q. Where are offenders released? Where will they live?
CSC makes every effort to determine where an offender will reside and, in virtually all cases, knows the offender's destination.
In cases where the CSC does not have that information, an information package on the offender is forwarded to the district office where the offender was convicted as well as where the offender was incarcerated in order for it to be transmitted to the police jurisdiction of that area.
Q. When are offenders released once they reach WED?
Under subsection 93(1) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), the actual release occurs during the normal business hours of the last regular working day prior to the scheduled release date for offenders on statutory release or at warrant expiry.
Q. What is the earliest possible release date?
In accordance with section 93(2) of the CCRA, where the Institutional Head is satisfied that an offender's re-entry into the community on statutory release or at expiration of sentence will be facilitated by an earlier release than that provided for in paragraph 1, the Institutional Head may release the offender up to five days before the day on which the offender is entitled to be released.
The "up to five days" are counted back from, but not including, the last working day before the warrant expiry date.
Q. Is the public notified of offenders whereabouts once released?
CSC works in close collaboration with police forces. The decision to release and share information with the public about offenders released at warrant expiry rests with the province or territory where the offender relocates. Most jurisdictions have either implemented or drafted their own protocols or legislation regarding public notification. Police will be notified of the date and time of the release.
Q. Do offenders simply walk out the door?
Every release is examined on a case-by-case basis. The logistics involved vary from one offender to another depending on their personal circumstances. For example, some offenders can arrange to have a family member pick them up at the perimeter of the correctional institution and provide them the transportation required. Others may have someone from a support group accompany them to their destination.
Q. Does CSC give money to offenders to help them out during the first few days of their release?
CSC's policy on Inmate's Money (Commissioner's Directive 860) includes provisions regarding payments made to offenders at the time of their release.
Q. Does CSC provide transportation to released offenders?
CSC's policy on the Release Process (Commissioner's Directive 712-4) includes provisions for transportation at the time of an offender's release.
Q. Will CSC facilitate an offender's re-entry into the community?
CSC's policy on Pre-Release Decision Making (Commissioner's Directive 712-1) addresses the processes and responsibilities related case preparation and the development of a Community Strategy to facilitate an offender's release to the community. CSC also works with various community organizations to help offenders successfully reintegrate into the community, including the John Howard Society of Canada and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies. Public Safety Canada has produced various resources to assist offenders upon release, including The Getting Out Handbook, which is a guide to community organizations and services for Aboriginal offenders being released to cities across Canada. As well, the department widely distributed a series of booklets to assist offenders in obtaining required federal/provincial identification (e.g., I Need a Birth Certificate).
Q. Can released offenders receive a passport?
As specified in sections 9 and 10 of the Canadian Passport Order, Passport Canada may refuse to issue a passport to an applicant who is deemed a national security risk, has been convicted of a passport-related criminal offence, is in jail, is on parole or probation and consequently forbidden to leave Canada, among other things.
Further details related to the Refusal of Passports and Revocation may be found in sections 9 and 10 of the Canadian Passport Order.
Q. Are there extra precautions taken when releasing a high profile offender?
All necessary steps are taken to ensure the safety of the public, staff and offenders. If there is a requirement for police assistance, CSC requests help from the police. Resources are in place to ensure safe reintegration for each offender.
Dealing with high-risk offenders
Q. What legislative options under the Criminal Code exist for dealing with high-risk offenders?
Crown attorneys and police have several tools available designed to protect Canadians for high-risk violent and sexual offenders. These include:
- Dangerous and Long-term Offender sentences for serious personal injury offences
- Orders to provide DNA samples at sentencing or by warrant
- Orders to comply with the registration requirements as outlined in the SOIRA
- Imposition of probation orders with conditions as set out by the sentencing court
- Section 810.1 and 810.2 peace bonds imposing strict conditions on individuals in the community, available regardless of previous conviction
- Section 161 orders imposing strict conditions on individuals convicted of offences against children under the age of 16
Q. What is a "Dangerous Offender" designation?
A Dangerous Offender (DO) designation results from an application by the provincial Crown Prosecutor to identify offenders that if released after a normal sentence would pose a significant danger to the public.
If granted, the designation is for life, and may result in an indeterminate sentence with no chance of full parole for seven years from the date their custody commenced and no chance of day parole for four years from the date their custody commenced.
Offences that can trigger a DO application are defined in the Criminal Code as serious personal injury offences, which include specific sexual assault offences or, alternatively, any violent or potentially violent offence that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years or more.
Q. What would warrant a Dangerous Offender designation?
A DO designation may result from a single act of brutality or a number of offences (i.e. repeat/habitual offences). The nature of the offence for which the offender has been convicted would be a serious personal injury offence, and he or she represents a continuing serious threat to the life, safety or physical or mental well-being of other persons.
Q. Who can initiate a Dangerous Offender application?
It is the responsibility of the provincial Crown Prosecutor or, in the territories, the federal Crown, in each case to make the decision whether or not to seek a DO application, on approval of the Attorney General of the jurisdiction. DO applications can only be made at the time of sentencing, except for a window of 6 months after sentence if new information comes to the Crown Prosecutor.
Q. What is the process for applying for a Dangerous Offender designation?
If the Crown believes the offender justifies such an application, and the sentencing court agrees the offender has been convicted of a “serious personal injury offence”, the first step is to apply for a 60-day psychiatric assessment. Once the report of the assessor is returned to the court, the Crown uses the information to determine whether the application should proceed. If there is merit, the Crown must gain the written approval of the provincial Attorney General or, for applications within the territories, the federal Minister of Justice before proceeding with the application.
Q. Can Dangerous Offenders be granted parole?
DOs subject to an indeterminate sentence become eligible for full parole seven years from the date their custody commenced and they become eligible for day parole four years after their custody commenced. Conditional release is granted only if it is determined by the PBC that the offender can be safely reintegrated into the community. In such cases, the offender is monitored in the same way as other parolees who are under supervision in the community.
Q. How many offenders have been designated Dangerous Offenders?
As of April 2012, there were 486 active offenders with the Dangerous Offender designation. Of the 486 active DO's, 466 were incarcerated (representing approximately 3% of the total federal inmate population).
Q. What is a Long-Term Offender?
Certain offenders can be designated a Long-Term Offender (LTO) if it is determined that a regular sentence will not be adequate to ensure public safety. These orders are imposed by the court at the time of sentencing and come into effect after the offenders have served their full sentence and are eligible for release.
The supervisory period for a LTO is referred to as a Long-Term Supervision Order (LTSO). It is mandated by the sentencing court and includes conditions, overseen by CSC, imposed by the PBC. The conditions can be imposed for up to 10 years, to ensure public safety.
Q. Who can initiate a Long-Term Offender application?
It is the responsibility of the provincial Crown Prosecutor (or, in the territories, the federal Crown prosecutor) in each case to make the decision whether or not to seek a LTO application. LTO applications can only be made at the time of sentencing.
Q. What is the process for obtaining a Long-Term Offender designation?
As in the Dangerous Offender application, an assessment of the offender's psychological state and his/her behavioural patterns is required prior to the application being heard. After such an assessment has been presented to the court, the provincial Attorney General must consent in writing for the application to proceed.
An application for a finding that an offender should receive a LTO designation can be brought as a stand-alone application, or, where the sentencing court refuses an application for a DO designation, it may impose instead a LTO designation without hearing further evidence.
Q. How many Long-Term Offender designations have been imposed in Canada?
As of April 2012, there were 680 offenders with LTO designations, with 302 being supervised on their Long-Term Supervision Order.
Since LTO designations were first introduced in 1997, the number of orders has increased from three in 1998 to 768 in April 2012.
Q. What is the difference between a Long-Term Offender (LTO) designation and a Long-term supervision order (LTSO)?
The LTO designation imposed on the offender by the sentencing judge is the actual sentence of the court, under Criminal Code s.753.1.
The LTSO, on the other hand, refers to the administrative aspects of the sentence. Once the offender is sentenced as a long-term offender, the Criminal Code cross-references the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) as express authority for the administration of the court imposed period of supervision once the offender is released.
The distinction between the two terms is that under the CCRA, the PBC is responsible for administering the LTSO that results from the LTO sentence, such as the determining of conditions applicable to the offender and applications to amend the conditions. The sentencing court, however, has no ability to impose conditions under the LTSO. On the other hand, while the PBC administers and oversees the LTSO resulting from the sentence, they have no authority to alter the duration of the LTO imposed at the time of sentencing. Thus the sentence of the court is referred to as the LTO designation, while the CCRA enforcement of the sentence is referred to as the LTSO.
Q. Why can't CSC or PBC declare someone a Dangerous or Long-Term Offender at the end of their sentence if they still pose a threat?
A Dangerous Offender (DO) or Long-Term Offender (LTO) designation must be applied for by the prosecution at the time of sentencing. CSC and PBC do not have the legal jurisdiction to make this determination. Only the courts can do so, at time of sentencing. It is the mandate of CSC to carry out the sentence of the court.
Q. If offenders are detained until the end of their sentences by the PBC because they are considered a continued threat to commit serious harm to others, why doesn't CSC keep them locked up indefinitely?
Offenders who reach Warrant Expiry Date after completing their entire sentence are no longer under the jurisdiction of CSC. Neither CSC nor PBC can lengthen a court sentence.
Q. What can CSC or PBC do to protect society from offenders whom they feel might pose a risk?
Where CSC has reasonable grounds to believe that an inmate who is nearing the end of their sentence will, on release, potentially pose a threat to any person, it will provide police all information under its control that is relevant to that perceived threat. A comprehensive information package is prepared 90 days prior to the offender's release at Warrant Expiry Date to assist police in determining what action could be taken.
Q. What type of information is contained in the information package?
The information package provided to police at Warrant Expiry is similar to the information package provided to the PBC when CSC makes a request for a detention referral. It contains a number of documents, such as the offender's criminal profile, correctional plan, records of institutional behaviour, psychological/psychiatric evaluations, etc.
Q. What can the police do with this information?
The police can apply to the courts to impose on an offender a 'peace bond' pursuant to Section 810 of the Criminal Code. The peace bond would impose various restrictions on an offender.
Q. What is a Section 810 peace bond?
Section 810 peace bonds are preventative court orders requiring an individual to agree to keep the peace, be of good behaviour and any other specific conditions reasonable in the circumstances to ensure public safety. A section 810 application may be brought regardless of whether or not the individual has been convicted of a criminal offence.
There are orders under Section 810; s.810.01 (criminal organizations); s. 810.1 (sexual offences against children); and, s.810.2 (serious personal injury offence).
Q. When is a Section 810 imposed?
Any individual may make the application to a provincial court, although ordinarily, police and/or provincial crown attorneys apply for section 810.1 and 810.2 peace bonds. The court will allow the application where it is satisfied that there is a reasonable fear that the defendant will cause injury or damage to property. The defendant must agree to the order binding him or her to the stipulated conditions, or be subject to immediate imprisonment.
An application for a peace bond can also be brought against an individual currently in prison for a previous offence. The conditions of Sections 810.1 and 810.2 are effective upon the date set by the court.
Q. What is the duration of a Peace Bond?
Once granted, the peace bond is in effect for up to 2 years, and may be renewed by application to a court. At any time, the individual or the Crown may apply to the court to have the conditions varied.
Q. Once a Section 810 is granted by a provincial court judge, is it valid across Canada?
There are no geographical restrictions within the provisions; therefore, if a court allows the application, it is enforceable throughout Canada. A breach of any condition of a peace bond is a criminal offence under s.811, and can be prosecuted in any provincial or territorial court with criminal jurisdiction.
Q. What happens if the offender fails to comply with the conditions of the peace bond?
A breach of any condition of a peace bond is a criminal offence under Section 811 of the Criminal Code, and can be prosecuted in any provincial or territorial court with criminal jurisdiction, providing up to a two year prison sentence if convicted.
Q. What types of conditions can be ordered in a Section 810?
Any peace bond includes an order to keep the peace and be of good behaviour. In addition, the court may impose any condition felt reasonable in the circumstances to prevent the harm feared in the application. The types of conditions most often imposed are weapons prohibitions, orders to stay away from specific places or persons, requirements to report regularly to police and/or corrections officials, drug and alcohol prohibitions, curfews, treatment orders and electronic monitoring. On s.810.1 peace bonds (sexual offences against children), it is almost always the case that there are general conditions imposed prohibiting the individual from being near playgrounds, swimming pools, schools and other locations where children are known to frequent.
National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR)
Q. What types of offences would require an offender to register in the National Sex Offender Registry?
The court will automatically issue a registration order upon an offender's conviction for any designated offence in s.490.011 of the Criminal Code. The Crown can apply for registration orders not only for sexual offence convictions, but for other offences in 490.011(b) if they were done with the intent to commit one of the designated 'sexual' offences (e.g., break and enter).
Q. How does registration work? Once a court has ordered registration, notice is provided to the offender requiring registration in person at a designated police agency (registration centre) within 7 days after the order is made or the release from custody. The registration period begins on the day the order is made and re-registration is required once per year and within 7 days of a change of personal information, such as their name or address. If the offender is going to be absent from his home address for more than 7 continuous days, the registration centre must be notified.
Under the legislation, persons authorized to register information must collect only the information pertaining to the offence and resulting order. Information should be registered in the sex offender database without delay and treated confidentially. The sex offender can request correction of information in the case of error or omission.
Q. How long do sex offenders remain registered?
Sex offenders are required to remain registered for one of three periods; these periods are geared to the maximum penalty available for the offence of which they were convicted:
- 10 years for summary conviction offences and offences with two and five year maximums
- 20 years for offences carrying a 10 or 14 year maximum sentence
- Lifetime for offences with a maximum life sentence or when there is a prior conviction for a sex offence, more than one sexual offence in the same proceeding, or if the offender was subject to a previous Sex Offender Information Registration Act (SOIRA) order.
After 20 years and (if necessary) every five years thereafter, offenders registered for life will be able to apply for a judicial review to determine the requirement to register for the remainder of the registration period;
Offenders registered for 10 or 20 years will be able to apply for a judicial review at the five or 10-year mark respectively to determine if their registration requirement should be removed based on the same test as for lifetime registrants.
Q. How long is offender information kept on the Sex Offender database?
Sex offender information will remain on the database indefinitely, except for final acquittal on appeal or free pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy or the Criminal Code. In these cases, information is permanently removed.
Q. Are there penalties for a registered sex offender who does not comply with a registration order?
It is a Criminal Code offence if a registered sex offender fails to comply with the terms and conditions of a registration order or provides false information. This offence would be punishable by a maximum of 6 months in prison for a first offence, up to 2 years for any subsequent offence and/or a $10,000 fine in either case.
Q. Who can access the National Sex Offender Registry?
SOIRAcontains specific provisions regulating police access to, and use and disclosure of, information contained in the database relating to sex offenders. These provisions include a summary offence for unlawful access to or distribution of database information, punishable by 6 months in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
National DNA Data Bank
Q. What are the designated offences that govern the issuing of DNA warrants and data bank orders and the inclusion of DNA profiles in the Crime Scene Index (CSI)?
Primary designated offences are those considered to be the most serious criminal offences – for example, sexual offences, murder and manslaughter. Secondary designated offences are relatively less serious in nature but still significant in their own right. Examples include assault and arson.
If DNA evidence is found at the scene of the commission of a designated offence the police may apply to a provincial court judge for a DNA warrant to obtain DNA samples from a suspect in the course of investigating the offence. The results will either exclude the person as a suspect or could be used as circumstantial evidence in the prosecution to establish a linkage between the accused and the commission of the crime.
If a person is convicted, found guilty under the Youth Criminal Justice Act or the Young Offenders Act, or discharged under s.730 of a designated offence, or found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder for a designated offence the court may order the taking of DNA samples from the person for the purposes of the National DNA Data Bank. The procedure to determine whether the court will make such an order differs depending on whether the offence is a primary designated offence or a secondary designated offence.
Q. What types of DNA profiles are contained in the DNA Data Bank?
The DNA data bank consists of two collections or indices of DNA profiles: a crime scene index, containing DNA profiles derived from bodily substances found at a crime scene; and a convicted offenders index, containing DNA profiles derived from bodily substances taken from offenders against whom post-conviction DNA data bank orders have been made.
Q. How many offender profiles are currently in the DNA Data Bank?
As of January 31, 2012, there were over 237,000 DNA profiles in the convicted offender index and more than 71,000 DNA profiles in the crime scene index. In addition, there have been 21,563 matches between crime scene DNA profiles and convicted offender DNA profiles and 2,741 "forensic matches" (crime scene to crime scene).
DNA legislation amendments
Q. What amendments have recently been made to the DNA legislation?
Bills C-13/C-18, which amended Canada's DNA data bank legislation, came into force on January 1, 2008. Bill C-13 expands the retroactive provisions of the Criminal Code so that:
- all persons convicted before June 30, 2000 of murder, manslaughter or a sexual offence, and who are still under sentence, could be included in the National DNA Data Bank; and
- now-repealed sexual offences (indecent assault male, indecent assault female and gross indecency) in the list of designated sexual offences could be included for the purposes of the retroactive provisions of the Criminal Code.
The retroactive provision resulted in the addition of approximately 3,200 convicted offenders in the National DNA Data Bank in 2008.
In addition, Bills C-13/C-18 expanded the scope of existing DNA legislation and improved the procedures surrounding the collection and management of DNA evidence contained in the data bank.
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