Community Notification Protocols
At present, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) requires the Correctional Service of Canada to provide information regarding the identity and criminal record of offenders to the National Parole Board, provincial governments or parole boards, or any other agency authorized to supervise offenders. The Act also provides for the notification of police forces prior to the release of a federal inmate, whether on temporary absence or statutory release. These provisions apply to all federal inmates, not only those classified as dangerous or long-term offenders.
Additional notification protocols have been established by several provinces to make the presence of high-risk offenders known to the public. In recent years, most provinces have formalized mechanisms for community notification through the establishment of advisory committees and procedures for the release of offender information to the community. Across provinces, the criteria that must be met before community notification and the definition of high-risk offender can vary. Some provincial protocols target sex offenders while others target all serious violent offenders.
In British Columbia, offenders who have been convicted of a sexual or violent offence against a child may have their identities made known to the community. The B. C. legislation calls for information sharing between justice agencies to allow for informed decisions on whether to notify the public when an offender who has committed a crime against a child is released from prison. This information sharing policy applies to local police, corrections officials at both the provincial and federal levels, the B. C. Review Board, Forensic Psychiatric Services, and the Crown Prosecutor's Office (Ministry of the Attorney General of British Columbia, 1995). In each case, a risk assessment will be done, and if a determination is made that public disclosure of information is necessary, information will be sent to local police who will then decide to made public the offender's personal information and whereabouts.
In Alberta, a community notification protocol has been created in partnership with Alberta Justice, the Chiefs of Police of municipal and Aboriginal police forces, the RCMP, and the Correctional Service of Canada. This protocol "has the primary objective of enhancing public protection through the lawful and appropriate release of information regarding a risk of significant harm to the public, or to a group or groups of people or to an individual" (Alberta Justice, 1996, p. 2). Once a determination is made by the Correctional Service Division of Alberta Justice that an offender poses a significant risk to the public, local police are notified upon the release of the offender. The Correctional Service Division considers many criteria including the offender's criminal record, access to victims, participation in treatment or rehabilitative programs, and his prospects for employment (Alberta Justice, 1996). The final decision to notify the community or certain individuals or groups is left to the police.
In 1996, the province of Saskatchewan introduced the Public Disclosure Act which "establishes a process to provide police with advice regarding the disclosure of information about dangerous offenders" (Government of Saskatchewan, 1996, p.1) and protects police from legal actions in response to community notification. At the request of local police, the Public Disclosure Committee will assess each case and recommend whether notification is appropriate, and if so, who should be notified and by what means.
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