An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (statutory release granted only when earned and subject to mandatory supervision)

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.

Sponsor

Darrel Stinson  Canadian Alliance

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Feb. 8, 2001
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

March 21st, 2002 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to thank the hon. members on this side of the House who spoke to the bill. I have some concern with the government's response to the bill.

If members stopped to think about it, we are in a position here in the House to make changes to certain laws in Canada. Members should not forget that one of the foremost reasons we were elected was that the public at large voted for us with a basic understanding that members from every party would do things that would enhance the well-being, the livelihoods and the safety of Canadians.

We introduce bills, such as Bill C-252, when police officers, the public at large, the written word in newspapers and even the government's own tests prove that statutory release is a basic failure. It has an unthinkable 41% failure rate.

It makes no sense to me why Correctional Service Canada does nothing about it and why the government pats itself on the back for the 58% success rate. How can we possibly encourage people to go into Correctional Service Canada with this kind of an attitude? If we cannot even protect the people who are in there to try and keep us protected, what would be the point of joining that organization? Yet here we have the government saying that it does not have to do anything about this.

The guards, the wardens, the police officers and those who are out there protecting us are the ones pointing out the problem. The government's own audit showed a 41% failure rate. However we are supposed to be happy because we have succeeded in 58.7% of the cases.

I cannot speak for everyone in the House but on this side of the House it is of grave concern. The public must be pulling out their hair. I heard a member say that we should pick a few names out of a hat. I can tell members about a man in St. John's who while on statutory release was charged with second degree murder.

Let us talk about two other prisoners released from jail. One was on day parole and the other was on statutory release in Ottawa. Members should remember the day those two attempted to rob a bank and became involved in a shootout with the police, injuring two police officers.

While on statutory release in Ottawa after serving time for manslaughter Brett Morgan murdered his female partner.

While on statutory release in Ottawa John Richardson and a gang of thugs murdered a 17 year old boy, sexually assaulted a 16 year old girl and beat up two teenagers.

The list goes on and on. The government cannot say that it has not heard or that does not know about these cases. These cases are right in our own backyard and yet nothing is done.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

March 21st, 2002 / 6:10 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is another one of those occasions where I have not been scheduled to speak. I did not think I would speak but I was listening to the debate and it has put some thoughts into my mind. I did hesitate to see if someone else wanted to speak because I do not like to hog the scene here, but at any rate I appreciate this opportunity.

This issue is of great importance. Since I have been a member of parliament I have picked up on something in the justice area which is that there is no law we can pass that can make people good and that the purpose of the law is to restrain those who are not. I cannot claim that is an original idea. I heard it from someone else. I do not remember the name of the person but it rang a bell.

Certainly one of the reasons for my joining the then reform party, now the Canadian Alliance, and having stayed with the party all these years, is that its members believe that the protection of law-abiding citizens takes precedence over the rights of those who break the law. I have often thought that as well. Those people who choose to break the law, who step outside the circle of law and order are incorrect when they claim that the rules of law and order should apply to them. They were not willing to apply them toward their own victims. This is an issue of great importance.

Another thing occurred to me as the debate was going on here this evening. Unless a person has been sentenced to life, where life means that one will be imprisoned until one dies, it follows that the person will serve that sentence for a certain time, after which the person will be released back into society. If the purpose of the law and of our justice system is to protect the law-abiding citizen, then we must do something with criminals while they are incarcerated which will change their attitudes, which will change their degree of respect for other people and for other people's property, so that they will not repeat the offence. Otherwise our system has failed. As has been mentioned, the rate of recidivism is an indication that our justice system is a failure in this area.

I have spoken also to people who have worked in the prisons and with prisoners. They say that there is not a great deal that happens inside the prisons which will change that very internal conviction and knowledge of what is right and wrong and which will convert the person into a law-abiding citizen while they are in jail. Usually it is efforts that go beyond that which will produce that change.

I remember the old saying that a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. If a person is held in prison against his will and is told that if he behaves in a certain way he will get some reward, he may be behaving in that certain way only motivated by the reward, be it early release or be it some other benefit that he gets while in prison, without actually having changed his inner attitude and convictions.

Bill C-252 is important because it addresses that principle. If we put a person in jail, the sentence having been for 10 years, and the person knows that in two and a half years he is going to get out, the person does not need to take any personal responsibility and can just do the two and a half years. In essence what has happened is that the sentence of the judge has been nullified to no advantage.

That is what is wrong with the present system. When the judge says 10 years, the criminal really hears two and one-half years. That has a double effect. It means that the prisoner needs to do nothing in prison in order to get out in two and one-half years. An even more devastating effect is that minimizing the sentence the judge handed down says that what the criminal did was not so bad. It reduces the degree to which the person takes responsibility which landed him in jail in the first place.

I believe very strongly in the concept called truth in sentencing. I believe that when a judge says a person will be serving 10 years, the person should serve 10 years. The person may still appeal the sentence before it is carried out. There are all sorts of appeals open to people who are convicted in the country and rightly so. However when that final judgment is made that what the person did was serious and objectionable in our society and an affront to law-abiding citizens and the person is going to serve 10 years, it should mean 3,650 days. It should not mean 3,640. It should mean exactly what it says.

Notwithstanding that is how long the criminal would be in prison, throw into the mix that an earlier release could be earned if during the time in prison the person eagerly and voluntarily attended courses, sessions and seminars which are offered inside prison to correct the person's attitude and thinking. The person would have to show an exemplary attitude in being part of the society within prison in terms of doing his share of the work required.

Our prisons are missing one very important aspect. Too few of them are attached to a farm. The best thing that could happen to people to give them a normal perspective on life would be to realize that even things as basic as shelter and food require human effort.

All of us do that. Some of us work in different areas and we trade our credit. For us it is the money we earn in our line of endeavour with others who have worked in agriculture and on the farms to produce food. It would be very worthwhile for prisoners to work in an environment where they actually have to get out and cultivate, hoe and do all of the work required to grow the food that would be used to feed them. Just doing that work is special. It connects people to the relationship between human effort and the standard of living we expect.

I visited the Edmonton max not too long ago. It has a very fine gymnasium. I thought what a waste of energy. All those guys have trouble restraining themselves anyway and they are given the opportunity to pump iron and really get strong so that when they get out they will have great ease in overpowering anyone who does not do what they want. It is not exactly the kind of training I would give them.

When I saw all the energy being expended in those weights going up and down, on the treadmill and all that other stuff, I asked why do we not get those guys to use that same energy to produce something? That would give them a sense of worth, a sense of connection to the human effort that is required in society, and a sense of respect. That is what is needed.

In conclusion, we need to do some lateral thinking about what we can do to correct these people's minds before they are released. The initiative taken by my colleague today says that early release is a reward which can be earned because we have observed proper, voluntary behaviour showing that the person is eligible and less likely or even unlikely to be a risk to the rest of society when released. It has to be the good way to go.

I am actually astounded that the Liberal members opposite and the Liberal government cannot see through such a very simple principle.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

March 21st, 2002 / 6 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in favour of Bill C-252, introduced by my colleague, the member for Okanagan--Shuswap.

This legislation aims to shift the priorities at Correctional Service Canada toward a greater concern for public safety and victims' rights. Unfortunately, during the past few years of the Liberal government's tenure we have seen a steady slide in the opposite direction, indeed, giving greater priorities to the rights of dangerous criminals with the federal government's club fed style prisons. They also include release quotas and laws such as statutory release that the bill seeks to remedy.

Recently I received a letter from a constituent who said he was concerned that dangerous criminals in Manitoba have been receiving overly lenient sentences. Clearly the issue of overly lenient sentences is a question that the courts need to address, but one thing parliament can address is the issue of parole. In this case, an individual was beaten to death and the accused received a sentence of two years less a day. Whether or not one agrees that the sentence was appropriate for the beating death of that man, in the end the man served only five months in prison before being let out on parole.

In response to the inquiry from my constituent, I said that early release from prison must be earned. It has long been the position of the Canadian Alliance and its predecessor, the Reform Party, that it should not be the right of dangerous offenders to expect and automatically receive reductions in their sentences. Unfortunately the government does not agree, preferring instead to allow criminals to automatically receive early release from prison. Where a criminal presents a continuing danger to law-abiding Canadians, an automatic reduction of prison sentence by parole officials brings the entire system of justice into disrepute.

Our parole system requires a number of changes to prevent convicts from being released prematurely into society. The bill brought forward by my colleague would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and would be a solid step in the right direction.

Statutory release is a law that gives most federal inmates mandatory release after serving two-thirds of their sentence. We know that aside from mandatory release prisoners are given additional time off depending on the category of offence. For example, there are some offences that the parole officials, through government direction, have categorized such that a convicted person receives parole after serving one-sixth of the sentence.

In a recent visit to a federal penitentiary, I raised this issue with one of the guards. He said not only was that true, indeed, prisoners who go through an orientation to come into the prison so that the officials can categorize them and determine where they should be going are released after serving a minimum amount of time even before the orientation program in fact is completed. What they are doing by statutory release provisions or administrative quota systems is moving people through, even though they do not know what dangers these individuals could pose.

We all know that statutory release has resulted in numerous offenders being released back into society before the authorities have even had a chance to attempt to rehabilitate these individuals. In that process, ordinary Canadians, law-abiding, taxpaying Canadians, are being put at risk.

Although an inmate may be detained until the end of his or her term, under certain circumstances Correctional Service Canada and the parole board only review violent offences in this context. Even in such cases we know that sometimes the most dangerous offenders are paroled early and are given a second chance to commit a violent assault, to prey on children or as we have been learning very recently, to shoot police officers.

The bill would amend the law so that offenders who are given statutory release would be subject to a mandatory supervision order as well as a requirement for rehabilitation. Most important, statutory release would not be automatic. It would have to be earned.

The need to overhaul Canada's prison and parole system has long been championed by our top law enforcement officials. Just last week the Canadian Police Association and the Ontario Police Association launched a nationwide petition to parliament to strengthen Canada's system of sentencing, corrections, parole and release.

In its policy resolutions the Canadian Police Association has taken the position that statutory release must be repealed. This has also been the position of the Ontario minister of correctional services, Mr. Rob Sampson. In a December 2001 letter, he called on the minister to immediately repeal the statutory release law, or the discount law as criminals refer to it.

The recent shootings of four police officers underscore the urgent need to overhaul our system.

Just last week a 28 year old police officer was shot near Cornwall, Ontario. His bullet resistant vest saved him during a shootout that left one person dead after the car was stopped for a traffic violation.

Montreal Constable L'Ecuyer, age 29, was shot and killed during a chase with a speeding car on February 28, 2002.

In Manitoba RCMP officer Mike Templeton, age 30, survived after he was shot in the face while attempting to pull over a suspected stolen vehicle near Oakville, Manitoba.

RCMP Constable Dennis Strongquill, age 52, was fatally shot after pursuing a stolen car in Russell, Manitoba on December 20, 2001.

In many of these tragic cases, the suspects involved were either out on parole or were wanted for parole violations. In many cases our parole officials say that the breach of parole was not that bad. They knew the individual was already in breach of parole and they said that it was not that bad.

What message are we sending to criminals when not only do they get mandatory statutory release, which they now consider their due, but we say to them that these are the conditions but if they breach them and they are not that serious, we will let them stay out? We are sending the message that the law does not need to be respected. The message is that law enforcement officials are being put at risk because of a blind adherence to an ideology that puts the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of our law enforcement officers, ordinary citizens and those who work hard to make Canada a safe place.

The solicitor general's policies defy common sense and put Canadians at risk. Criminals simply should not be awarded a get out of jail free card.

I support my colleague's bill. It is important legislation. We need to see that it becomes law.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

March 21st, 2002 / 5:50 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased as always to have an opportunity to rise and speak to private members' business.

I listened carefully to the parliamentary secretary and the Department of Justice line he trotted out, the gobbledegook in support of the government's position to reject statutory release as an amendment to the current Corrections and Conditional Release Act. He gave many of the same criticisms that we have heard in debate in the past in regard to changing the way in which we automatically release prisoners into society by virtue of the statutory release provisions of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

In many ways the hon. parliamentary secretary answered his own criticisms. He spoke of public protection being so engrained in the act, yet it is public protection that is very much at risk as a result. He trotted that out as is often the case when he is questioned.

Mr. Speaker, representing the riding of Kingston and the Islands, where we have one of our largest and most secure facilities in the country, the Kingston maximum security prison, you are well aware that by virtue of this legislation, subject to very few restrictions prisoners are automatically given the keys to their prison cell by virtue of just doing their time. Therefore, I would suggest, prisoners have no incentive to rehabilitate and reform themselves. They have no incentive to partake of prison programs. There is no incentive even to behave, which is what I think is most crucial. There is no encouragement to dissuade and deter prisoners while they are doing time. In instances where prisoners find themselves in the Kingston pen doing time for the most serious and heinous offences, such as sexual assault, murder, invasion of a person's property and person, by virtue of statutory release they simply do their time.

The sentiment and the purpose behind having mandatory supervision apply by virtue of the adoption of such a change to the legislation, in essence doing away with statutory or mandatory release and putting in place a system of earned release, which used to exist, let me be quick to add, tells federal inmates and society generally that when persons have been convicted, have availed themselves of due process and appeals and all legal avenues have been exhausted, and they are then incarcerated, they will be encouraged, nay, they will be required to behave and earn early release rather than simply pervert the judge's sentence which in essence says they will serve a set period of time. The parole board, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, allows for that sentence to be undermined and, in many instances, watered down.

This very simple change to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act contemplated in the hon. member's bill, Bill C-252, this very subject matter, was the subject of a discussion that took place in a review at the justice committee. It was alluded to by the parliamentary secretary. I was part of that committee. Many Liberal members on committee at that time were prepared to support those changes. They were prepared to embrace the idea of earned release, earned remission, encouraging individuals to actively pursue programs which would demonstrate that they were rehabilitating themselves and ready to re-enter society instead of simply sitting in their prison cells and, I will be graphic, engaging in incredibly inappropriate activity involving guards, such as throwing feces at them, swearing at them, engaging in fighting and all sorts of other inappropriate activity with other prisoners, thereby posing a real threat to the brave men and women who serve in the correctional system and to other inmates. That is not the way we should be operating our prison system in Canada.

To suggest somehow that we have the most effective correction system, the envy of the world, as the hon. member opposite referred to it, that is not the case. We have a lot of problems to deal with, including the amounts of drugs and inappropriate activity that are still very prevalent in Canada's corrections system. Having a system of earned release would address that. It does not say that the person would not be released early. It does not contemplate that an individual would not be entitled to early release. It says that people have to play by the rules, that they have to behave appropriately and avail themselves of programming which demonstrates that not only are they mentally prepared to go back into society but they are actually taking part in their own rehabilitation.

Therefore this is not the type of legislation that would cause a major shift in the current numbers who would be released. What it would do is put clear restrictions in place for individuals who, while doing time, have demonstrated through their actions that they are not ready to be reintegrated, that they are not prepared to go back into society and behave in an appropriate way, a non-criminal way.

I would suggest that the hon. member, by bringing forward his private member's bill, is following the path of common sense and bringing forward a change to our current Corrections and Conditional Release Act that would do away with this perversion of the sentencing process. It would do away with making it automatic that we use some randomly determined, and in many cases inextricable, formula to decide who is and who is not released from our prisons.

Not only would the merit system proposed by this type of amendment benefit the offenders through engaging them in their own rehabilitation process, it would certainly benefit the guards, the frontline correctional services personnel. Most important, it would give society some indication that the parole board and Corrections and Conditional Release Act was being followed.

As it currently stands, the individual just simply has to show up, and he has to because he is in jail, but that individual has to do nothing. The judge says “ten years in jail” and a person is out in four. That is the way it works today. That is not the type of general and specific deterrence judges speak of every day in courts across the country, and yet that is a word that seems absolutely perverse. It seems that one never wants to hear that word uttered on the other side of the House. Liberal members do not like the philosophy of general deterrence. They do not want to hear about it. They think it should not be part of the system, even though it is there. It is omnipresent every day in courts across the country.

There would be a financial cost, some would suggest, if offenders did not or could not meet the new requirements of release, if they had to be held to a higher standard. Hon. members on the Liberal side would say it would cost too much. What is the cost when somebody is released early and goes out and shoots a police officer or strangles a child or sexually assaults someone? That is the human cost that is intangible, that we cannot even contemplate when prisoners are released prior to demonstrating that they are ready to be back on the street.

No, it is not a perfect system. No, there is no way to predict human behaviour in every instance, but one way to predict human behaviour is to study the previous behaviour that landed somebody in jail in the first place. Judges determine sentences based on the evidence, on the victim impact statements, often on psychiatric evidence, on what they hear in the courtroom, the circumstances and facts of the case. When a judge makes a decision and the correctional system and the parole board conspire to put that person back on the street, it is a very serious and damaging outcome for society.

This simple amendment would ensure that things are tightened up, that those currently in the system would ensure firsthand that individuals would not be back on the street before being ready. Surely this is the most prominent, relevant and important way to protect society. We hear about the protection of society all the time from the solicitor general, the commissioner of corrections and from the RCMP. Let us do something about it and actually make changes that would bring that sentiment to fruition.

Members of the Progressive Conservative Democratic Representative Coalition support this initiative. We thank the hon. member for the opportunity to bring this matter back to parliament. The recidivism criteria should always be taken into consideration for those eligible for accelerated parole. One of the most perverse things is that the current youth criminal justice system will bring statutory release, conditional sentences and some of the worst perversions of justice in the adult system to our youth system. That is what we will see happening instead of seeing things going in the opposite direction, the way this private member's bill would move our legislation.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

March 21st, 2002 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Waterloo—Wellington Ontario

Liberal

Lynn Myers LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to join in this discussion. Before us are proposals regarding the revision of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, or CCRA as it is often called. There are two components here and it would simplify things if I speak to the second proposal at this time.

The member Okanagan--Shuswap indicates by his bill that offenders who return to our communities under the statutory release provisions of the act should be supervised. As he puts it, there should be mandatory supervision. That is exactly what CCRA now provides. Each year more than 9,000 offenders are released from the custody of Correctional Service Canada. Almost all are released under supervision with the exception of a few hundred whose earlier release cannot be supported.

The justice system is continually under review. For example, in the early 1990s there were extensive consultations and nationwide discussions of the Criminal Code of Canada and the Penitentiary Act and Parole Act as they were then called. In 1992 these efforts culminated in the passage of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. It modernized the way in which court imposed sentences were administered and entered well thought out principles, policies and practices into the law itself. In doing so, the new act ensured that our practices complied with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

At that time the provisions for statutory release replaced a similar program that had been introduced in 1971 called mandatory supervision. Mandatory supervision had developed piecemeal and contained elements of both statutory and earned remission. It was unwieldy to administer but the practice allowed offenders who had not been paroled previously to re-enter society under supervision after approximately two-thirds of their sentence had been served.

Previously, earned remission advanced the end of the sentence but did not require supervision or set conditions for that early release period. Moreover although the mandatory supervision had been seen as an inducement to good behaviour, almost all inmates earned almost all of their remission. Under mandatory supervision, that last third of the sentence became a supervised period to provide both control and assistance to offenders being released as a result of earned remission.

After 1992 and through subsequent amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the concept of earned remission was removed from sentence calculation but the mandatory supervision of offenders conditionally released remained part of the law. In addition to the support and control provided by parole officers, strict conditions are imposed on offenders on statutory release that may include that they reside in a halfway house. Any breach of conditions can lead to the revocation of release even if no additional crime has been committed.

All of this is to say that the member opposite is proposing an unnecessary redundancy.

I would now like to turn to the first clause of Bill C-252. The acceptance of this proposed change would significantly alter the face of sentence administration. The abolition of statutory release and the return of a form of earned remission would set the system back to its pre-1992 status that was so in need of modernization. At that time human resources were being expended on maintaining an onerous system of monitoring and record keeping, rather than promoting involvement in programs and personal improvement.

As I have had occasion to mention, the criminal justice system certainly has been before us often during the time I have had the honour to serve in this place. Most recently we have been seeing meaningful changes in the criminal code and related statutes in response to terrorist threats. The matter of youth justice, as an example, has been dealt with in accordance with the wishes of the majority of Canadians. The solicitor general, in addition to responding to the tragic events of last fall, has extended protection of young Canadians from sexual predators with amendments to the Criminal Records Act and continues to oversee the updating of information systems to better track those who pose a threat to the vulnerable.

In the areas of corrections and conditional release, these meaningful and positive changes have been made to protect Canadians and to maintain the level of security they expect and enjoy.

As I have mentioned, these initiatives began in earnest 10 years ago with the replacement of the Parole Act and the Penitentiary Act through the creation of the new Corrections and Conditional Release Act. There is ample evidence from abroad that we can pride ourselves on our worldwide reputation for maintaining a correctional system that acts fairly and respects the human dignity of offenders while pursuing its primary goal of public protection.

The proposal now before us would in no way contribute to our efforts to administer sentences in a way that best protects Canadians. In fact, the hon. member's proposals would go against the principles of correctional and conditional release passed by this parliament and enshrined in the law itself. Public safety is the first priority of correctional and conditional release.

I believe and think it is well known that the government has demonstrated its continual willingness to undertake change when necessary. I would be the last to say that any legislation is perfect. It is our duty to remain aware of changing circumstances that may require the reform of existing laws. We must be alert to faults that may be detected in our laws that may give rise to injustice. We must be equally alert in identifying and resisting proposals such as the one before us today that would not contribute to the continuing success of efforts to improve our corrections and conditional release system.

Bill C-252, suggesting as it does the revision of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, brings something new to the legislation passed by the House less than 10 years ago and thereafter reassessed and amended as was determined to be necessary.

The amendments proposed would change our laws in ways not intended by those who agreed to major legislative reform in this place when the CCRA was passed and subsequently revised. In addition, the proposals would not be in line with the recent recommendations of the parliamentary committee in its review of this act. It is clear then that the removal of the current statutory release scheme has been thoroughly considered on a number of occasions and rejected.

The opposition members have been quick to criticize our correctional system at every opportunity. They never however mention the tremendous successes that we have in our system. They focus on failure. They never mention that our system is the envy of most nations in the world and that their representatives come to Canada to see how they can use our best practices.

That is not to say that we cannot improve; we can. The government has shown that it will continue to take the action necessary to make our corrections system even more effective and to ensure that public safety is always the number one priority for all Canadians. Consequently, Bill C-252 cannot be given our support at this time.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

March 21st, 2002 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

moved that Bill C-252, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (statutory release granted only when earned and subject to mandatory supervision), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-252, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (statutory release granted only when earned and subject to mandatory supervision).

My private member's bill takes aim at the root of many problems caused by a Liberal change to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act which makes it mandatory that inmates serving a fixed-length sentence longer than two years are released after serving two-thirds of their sentence unless correctional officers make a report against such a release, approximately 11 months ahead of the statutory release date. That report goes to the institutional unit board or the detention review board which in turn must decide whether to send it to the parole board for consideration at the granting hearing.

Existing possibilities at the parole board hearing are that the inmate in question may not get out on statutory release or may be sent to a halfway house or might be released on a one-shot basis meaning that failure to satisfy his parole officer can result in the inmate being sent back to serve the entire remainder of his sentence.

According to the National Parole Board performance monitoring report less than 59% of the offenders released on statutory release during the period of April 1, 2000 to March 31, 2001 completed their sentences successfully in the community. This means a 41% failure rate.

Any organization or company with a 41% failure rate has some serious problems. If people buy an automobile or were using machinery with a 41% failure rate, I am sure that the company would be hauled up on all kinds of financial questions.

Of the 4,900 let out of federal prisons on statutory release, 14.4% of new offenders while 26.7% of offenders on statutory release had those releases revoked for failing to abide by the conditions of their release. By contrast, prisoners who earned their release did much better.

Full and day parole could only be granted by the National Parole Board where statutory release is granted by law, a law changed by the government. Most offenders serving definite sentences, for example six years, are released after serving two-thirds of their sentence.

One of the most tragic failures in the present system involved innocent victims of offenders on statutory release. Although convictions for violent offences by offenders on conditional release have been dropping for the past seven years National Parole Board figures show that 188 convictions for violent offences were still obtained in the year 2000-2001.

We are talking about such crimes as murder, attempted murder, sexual assault, major assault, hostage taking, forcible confinement and armed robbery. These are the kinds of crimes people on statutory release have committed.

Any serious offence by prisoners out on statutory release are simply not acceptable. The parole board is investigating serious crimes committed by those released from jail to see if there are any loopholes in the system. That is an improvement. However the biggest loophole is the present definition of statutory release in the first place. Instead my bill would require offenders to earn their release by good behaviour.

According to the National Parole Board:

All federal offenders are entitled to statutory release after serving 2/3 of theirsentence unless it is determined that they are likely to commit an offence causing death or serious harmto another person, a sexual offence involving a child or a serious drug offence before the expiration ofthe sentence.

Only the National Parole Board determines that inmates are likely to commit such an offence that they now can be detained to serve their full sentence. What if the board thinks there is only a 30% or 35% chance that the prisoner would commit such a crime? In that case, the prisoner must go free. Once they are released I have had the police tell me that in the community where my constituency office is located we are getting some very violent offenders being placed in our power house because parole boards think it is not likely that they will recommit a serious crime.

There were 2,779 offenders out on statutory release across Canada from 2000-01. That is up from 2,016 from 1993-94 when the Liberal government took office. The largest increase took place in the pacific region, up 14.4% for the same year of 2000-01. We had a prison population of 12,791 with 4,698 out on statutory release. In other words 37% were out on statutory release. In anyone's estimation that represents a high percentage when we realize these are people who have not earned their release but simply people that the system was required by law to let out.

Existing laws put the burden of assessing an inmate's status mostly on correctional officers. Granted that they will consult with the inmate, Bill C-252 would put the burden mostly on the inmate to earn his or her release through such good behaviour as getting counselling for anger management, healing addictions to alcohol and/or drugs and so on.

Bill C-252 is based on several points. First and foremost is the desire to protect the public from possible slip-ups by administrators which have in the past resulted in harm to innocent victims by releasing the wrong people into our communities.

In recent months we have seen a startling increase in the number of law enforcement officials being killed or seriously injured when stopping someone who is out on statutory release. Those offenders knowing full well that they will go back to the slammer pull guns on officers.

The member for Provencher told us as recently as February 27 that in less than three months two RCMP officers in Manitoba have been shot, one of them fatally. Just last week the home of another Winnipeg police officer was firebombed. In both shootings we know that the suspects were wanted for parole violations.

While criminals in Canada are increasingly more willing to use violence our solicitor general continues to accelerate the process of early parole that would see more dangerous offenders released from club fed style prisons. This not only defies common sense but it puts the police at an unacceptable risk.

In order to restore public confidence in our justice system and to give police the support they need the Liberal government must act immediately to require that criminals earn their parole. Indeed this area of changing parole is not only the essence of my private member's bill it is one of the keystones of a recent petition launched by the police across Canada. It asks that we end unearned early release from prison.

Regarding danger to the general public the Canadian resource centre for victims of crime sent my party a long list of offenders who committed serious crimes while on statutory release. They include: Luc Gregoire who abducted a woman in Calgary and murdered her; Douglas Parenteau who murdered two people in Millet, Alberta; Fernand Auger who abducted and murdered a woman in B.C. and then took his own life; Irwin Bird who was charged in Alberta with murder, forcible confinement and aggravated assault; Huy Manh Pham who was charged with second degree murder in Vancouver; and John Borden who was charged with second degree murder in Edmonton.

The list goes on and on but it gives us some idea of why statutory release should be changed both to protect law enforcement officers and the general public.

Another principle behind my private member's bill is to recognize that prisoners often need to learn how to make good decisions. Instead, in prison they make very few decisions. This is one of the defining differences between being in prison and being at-large in society. It is that we, free men and women, can decide what we will do and when we will do it. The more an inmate can make successful decisions while incarcerated the better that person is prepared to function successfully when released from a highly structured prison environment.

That is one of the biggest goals of imprisoning any offender. It is not only to punish the offender, it is not only to protect society, it is also to try to turn around the lives of prisoners and make them once again a productive member of society.

That leads me to another principle behind my proposed bill, mainly that early release for good behaviour provides a clear incentive for wanting to improve. It can help inmates form good habits and break bad patterns of behaviour. This can help turn our prisons into locations which are more successful in improving the prisoner's behaviour patterns.

According to prison officials with whom I have discussed this, a soft prison system where inmates get rewards, regardless of whether or not they co-operate with the guards or the programs offered to them, is bad for the public, the guards and prisoners alike. Looking at this issue from the point of view that society wants inmates to succeed once they are released from prison, having prisoners take much more responsibility for their own rehabilitation can help increase the success ratio.

Specifically, if prisoner is not ready to perform well outside prison, my bill would mean that he or she would not be booted out of the door as the present CCRA requires. We have to realize that inmates who have served several years in prison are at high risk to reoffend, unless there is some structure outside the prison to help them adjust.

As one correctional officer told my office recently, “If an inmate is released on Friday with $100 and no structure to his life, he is likely to score with heroin or a hooker and be back in custody in no time. That failure helps nobody”. Such failures also contribute to the overload on our courts and on our police.

In conclusion, redefining statutory release so that it would have to be earned and would be subject to parole, would better protect both the general public and law enforcement officers as well as improve rehabilitation in the correction of inmates in our prisons.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

February 8th, 2001 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-252, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (statutory release granted only when earned and subject to mandatory supervision).

Mr. Speaker, I too thank my hon. colleague from Athabasca for seconding the bill. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that all inmates applying for statutory release establish that they are rehabilitated to the extent that public safety and the safety of individuals are not jeopardized by their being at large.

It also requires that all those on statutory release to be subject to a mandatory supervision order. Statutory release would not be granted if the offender has shown behaviour that raises reasonable doubt about public safety or complying with the supervision order.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)