Parole eligibility dates have become harsher over the years. Canadians feel that offenders should not be released “early,” and thus call for a tougher punishment model. It is believed that justice is determined by how much time the offender has served. Those who are pushing for reform of the correctional system believe that we need to reduce this dependency on prisons to achieve balance in the system. Communities need to be thinking about satisfying forms of justice that incorporate rehabilitation. In 1991, the Solicitor General of Canada stated that “public safety is an important issue to Canadians, who have sent a strong message to the government that they are concerned about how Canada’s corrections system deals with certain kinds of criminals.” This is evident through the fact that convicted murderers were once eligible for temporary absences after serving 3 years, but now they have to wait until 3 years before their parole eligibility.

It has become clear that preparation for release for long term inmates, such as those serving life sentences for murder, must include consideration for parole comparatively early in the sentence if reintegration preparation is to be successful. There are some who would argue that there is no practical reason why earlier parole eligibility provision could not apply today. For example, prior to 1968, the minimum eligibility period for parole for all types of life sentences, including those commuted from a death sentence, was 7 years. While 7 years may no longer be appropriate, if we choose provisions that lay somewhere in between the pre-1968 parole eligibility dates and today’s eligibility time frames, we may find a suitable sentencing option that satisfies all parties involved. For instance, one could ask why it is presently necessary to keep hundreds of convicted murderers in prison for at least 10 or 25 years when in 1975 these same individuals would have qualified for full parole after only 7 years? Prior to the abolition of the death penalty, even those whose sentences had been commuted to life imprisonment were eligible for parole consideration after 7 years.

For example, even an inmate with a long sentence could, on a flexible, individualized basis, be eligible for escorted temporary absences after 1 year, unescorted temporary absences after 2 years, day parole after 5 years and full parole after 7 years. However, getting the legislative changes required to implement this would be neither quick nor easy. This is evident by the 1997 amendments to Section 745. No matter how economically tantalizing reduced minimum parole eligibility periods might be, the Canadian public and many politicians have not yet given any substantive indication that they are prepared to take what they perceive is the risk of making early release, no matter how conditional, a mainstay of sentencing policy for convicted murderers. Generally, there has been a larger media focus on “law and order” issues as both communities and legislators struggle to reconcile expectations regarding public safety and due punishment for crimes committed with the pressures of economic restraint. While many correctional observers have adopted the “nothing works” perspective, evidences suggests that some things do work.


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