This new law rescinded the Habitual Offender Act and the Dangerous Sexual Offender Acts, and was formulated such that it would apply to both sex offenders and those who had committed acts of a non-sexual violent nature. In 1977, Part XXIV of the Criminal Code had provisions for indeterminate or determinate sentences for offenders found to be dangerous who would be eligible for parole after three years.

Since the passage of the 1977 legislation, there have also been extra-judicial measures undertaken in response to post-release crimes that have attracted extensive media coverage, public protest and government task force recommendations. At one point, it was the practice of the National Parole Board to release offenders who had served two-thirds of their sentence and then to immediately issue recall warrants to offenders predicted to be dangerous (Petrunik, 1994). The Supreme Court of Canada declared this unconstitutional and instructed the Parole Board to base recalls on post-release conduct only, rather than on predictions. To avoid the difficulties with the above release and recall practice, legislation was passed in 1988 that allows the Parole Board to detain inmates to the end of their sentence if there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offender would cause death or harm to another upon release while under statutory release (Marshall & Barrett, 1990).

A highly publicized 1987 sexual assault and murder led to the repeal of the then Parole Act and the Penitentiaries Act (Petrunik, 1994). The introduction of the new Corrections and Conditional Release Act meant changes to the management of offenders while incarcerated and to the time and manner in which they are released. One change is that judges may now set parole eligibility at one half of the sentence for certain offenders convicted of certain types of offences. There were also additions to the list of offences for which the judge can set release eligibility and for which the National Parole Board can detain offenders to warrant expiry. However, these measures did nothing to address the problem with the release of potentially dangerous offenders into the community upon warrant expiry.

In 1993, then Solicitor General Doug Lewis announced a number of proposals including post-sentence detention for offenders nearing sentence expiry who are believed to be a threat to community safety. The possibility of a Charter violation discouraged Solicitor General Herb Gray from pursuing Lewis' proposal (Leishman, 1994). Instead, Justice Minister Allan Rock approached provincial mental health departments in attempts to get cooperation for his plans for civil commitment of those offenders who still pose a risk upon release (Blanchfield, 1995). This measure was criticized because of the inability of provincial mental health laws to confine patients for long periods, the attempt to turn a criminal justice problem into a mental health issue, and the fact that excessively long civil detention is just as vulnerable to Charter scrutiny as criminal legislation.


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