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Sentencing and Parole in CanadaChapter 9 Sentencing and Parole in Canada Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-1
Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc.Learning Objectives The Canadian court system Aboriginal overrepresentation Purposes and principles of sentencing Sentencing options Sentencing disparity Effective correctional intervention Parole decision making Public attitudes towards the justice system Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-2
Hierarchy of Canadian CourtsCourts in Canada are divided into provincial/territorial courts and federal courts Courts are also organized into a hierarchy with courts lower in the hierarchy abiding by the decisions of courts at higher levels The Supreme Court of Canada is the final court of appeal Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-3
The Canadian Court SystemSource: Department of Justice, 2010 Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-4
Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc.Aboriginal Courts Aboriginal courts also exist within the court structure Established so that special consideration could be given to the adverse background conditions of Aboriginal offenders One of the goals of these courts is to reduce Aboriginal overrepresentation in the criminal justice system Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-5
Aboriginal OverrepresentationRefers to the disproportionate number of Aboriginals involved in the criminal justice system Aboriginals make up approximately 3% of the Canadian population, but account for 17% of adults admitted into remand The problem is more severe in the Prairie provinces Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-6
Explanations for Aboriginal OverrepresentationThere are several possible explanations: A higher Aboriginal crime rate The commission by Aboriginal people of more serious crimes Criminal justice practices that penalize Aboriginal people (e.g., fine defaults) Overt or systemic racism Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-7
Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc.Sentencing in Canada Sentencing is defined as the judicial determination of a legal sanction upon a person convicted of an offence (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 1997) Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-8
The Purposes of SentencingSentences are meant to accomplish any number of a variety of goals: Specific deterrence General deterrence Denunciation Incapacitation Reparation Rehabilitation Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-9
The Principles of SentencingThe fundamental principle of sentencing states that a sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-10
Additional PrinciplesJudges must also: Consider aggravating and mitigating factors Use comparable sentences for similar offenders committing similar crimes Use alternatives to incarceration if at all possible Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-11
Sentencing Options in CanadaAbsolute or conditional discharge Probation Restitution Fines and community service Conditional sentence Imprisonment Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-12
Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc.Dangerous Offenders A dangerous offender application can be made for any offender convicted of a serious personal injury offence who constitutes a danger to others Requires a determination of dangerousness Can result in a term of indefinite imprisonment Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-13
Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc.Long Term Offenders The long term offender designation is relatively new to Canada Must meet several criteria: Sentence of 2+ years is appropriate Risk of re-offending Possibility of eventual control of risk Receives a sentence of at least 2 years followed by a period of supervision Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-14
Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc.Sentencing Disparity Sentencing disparity refers to variations in sentences handed down by different judges (or the same judge on different occasions) for similar offenders committing similar offences (McFatter, 1986) Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-15
Unwarranted Sentencing DisparityUnwarranted sentencing disparity results from a reliance on extra-legal (i.e., legally irrelevant) factors These factors can be categorized as: Systematic factors (e.g., how lenient judges believe sentences should be) Unsystematic factors (e.g., the mood of the judge on any particular day) Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-16
Studying Sentencing DisparitySentencing disparity is typically studied in one of two ways: Simulation studies Official sentencing statistics Using either method it is clear that sentencing disparity exists in Canada (Birkenmayer & Roberts, 1997; Palys & Divorski, 1986) Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-17
Reducing Sentencing DisparityOne way of reducing sentencing disparity is to use sentencing guidelines However, sentencing guidelines in Canada are very broad (Roberts, 1991) and may not significantly reduce sentencing disparity Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-18
Are the Goals of Sentencing Achieved?Ongoing debate about deterrence and rehabilitation Many researchers do not believe that get-tough strategies reduce crime However, certain rehabilitative efforts do appear to reduce re-offending Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-19
The Effect of PunishmentGendreau et al. (2001) examined recidivism rates for community-based sanctions and prison sentences Community-based sanctions (with the exception of fines and restitution) resulted in increased recidivism rates Incarceration resulted in increased recidivism rates (with longer incarceration resulting in higher rates) Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-20
What Works in Offender Treatment?Canadian researchers have led the way in establishing principles of effective correctional intervention (Andrews & Bonta, 2006) Correctional interventions that incorporate these principles have been shown to reduce recidivism rates (Andrews et al., 1990) Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-21
Principles of Effective Correctional InterventionImportant principles include: Need principle – effective intervention targets criminogenic needs Risk principle – effective intervention targets high-risk offenders Responsivity principle – effective intervention matches the general learning styles and characteristics of offenders Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-22
Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc.Parole in Canada Parole involves: Conditional release into community Rehabilitation A high degree of supervision Return to prison if conditions are breached Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-23
Myths Concerning ParoleParole reduces sentence time Parole is automatically granted when inmates become eligible Parole is granted if remorse is shown Offenders released on parole frequently re-offend Victims do not play a role in parole decisions Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-24
Parole Decision MakingDecisions are made by members of Canada’s National Parole Board (NPB) Offenders become eligible for parole after serving the first third, or the first seven years, of their sentence A formal hearing takes place between the offender and the NPB and a formal risk assessment is conducted Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-25
Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc.Risk Assessment This risk assessment includes an examination of: Criminal history Mental status Performance on earlier releases Information from victims Institutional behaviour Feasibility of release plans, etc. Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-26
Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc.Types of Parole Temporary absence Day parole Full parole Statutory release Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-27
Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc.Conditions of Parole Various conditions of parole must be met or the offender may go back to prison Examples include: Abstain from drugs and alcohol Remain in Canada Obey the law and keep the peace Do not own or possess any weapons Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-28
The Effectiveness of ParoleThe NPB (2009) indicates that offenders let out on parole are less likely to breach conditions or commit new offences compared to offenders let out on statutory release Even offenders let out on statutory release are unlikely to commit further crimes Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-29
Public Attitudes Towards the Criminal Justice SystemThere are three methods that are commonly used to study public attitudes towards the criminal justice system: Simulation studies Focus groups Public opinion polls (most common) Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-30
Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc.Common Attitudes Results of public opinion polls indicate that: Canadians view the criminal justice system in a relatively positive light (especially the police) Canadians believe that offenders are treated too leniently Canadians support alternatives to sentencing under certain conditions Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-31
Factors That Influence Public AttitudesDiscrepancy between attitudes and reality (e.g., with respect to lenient treatment) due to an inadequate understanding of the criminal justice system According to Sprott and Doob (1997), this discrepancy is largely the result of biased media portrayals of the criminal justice system Copyright © 2012 Pearson Canada Inc. 9-32
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