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Parole and Statutory Release, Toronto


When an offender is sentenced to a specific amount of time in jail or prison, this does not mean they will actually be behind bars for that long. This page details when offenders are eligible for parole and statutory release. Please note, even if parole is denied, an offender may still be statutorily released after serving two thirds of his sentence (as detailed below).

Please Note: We Currently DO NOT provide legal services for parole applications. This is for informational purposes only. 

Parole Eligibility - Federal Prisons

Offenders sentenced to imprisonment of two years or more will serve their time in a federal prison.

For offenders serving sentences of anything other than life imprisonment in a Federal prison, according to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, they are eligible for parole upon serving one third of the total sentence imposed. If sentenced for three years, the offender would be eligible for parole after serving only one year.

Life Imprisonment Parole Eligibility

For those who are sentenced to life imprisonment, most are eligible for full parole after serving only seven years in prison, however there are a few exceptions namely for: murderers, matters involving national defence, matters involving war crimes, and those who have been designated as "dangerous offenders".

If sentenced to "life imprisonment" in Canada, an offender will live the remainder of their life under conditions imposed by the criminal justice system, but they most likely will not spend the rest of their life in prison. In fact, many will only have to spend a mere 7 years behind bars. Their freedoms and mobility, however, will be limited for the rest of their life. They may be banned from living in certain places or areas, or from communicating with specific people. If they violate these terms their parole can be retracted forcing them to go back to prison.

The conditions of parole will depend on the facts of the case. For instance, a child sex offender may have a lifelong ban from interacting with children or from going to places where children are present.

Parole for Murder Convictions

1st Degree Murder

The Criminal Code states that those convicted of 1st degree murder will be eligible for parole after serving 25 years in prison. This means they must spend 25 full years behind bars before applying. A 20 year old murderer thus will likely be paroled (assuming relatively good behaviour in prison) at the age of 45. Judges do not have the discretion to order less than or more than a 25 year parole eligibility period for 1st degree murderers (it is mandatory under the Code).

2nd Degree Murder

Those who are convicted of 2nd degree murder will be eligible for parole after serving a minimum of 10 years in prison. Judges have the discretion, however, to increase this to an amount not exceeding 25 years. Sentences of parole ineligibility of more than 20 years are extremely rare for 2nd degree murder convictions. In fact, ranges of 10 - 14 years are quite common in Canada.

Parole for Murderers

Convicted murderers are usually granted parole in Canada. If they behave reasonably well in prison, admit responsibility for their crime, demonstrate a willingness to rehabilitate themselves (through education and programs), and have a clear plan to successfully integrate back into society upon their release, they are almost guaranteed to be granted parole.

What about extreme cases like Paul Bernardo and Russell Williams?

Paul Bernardo was declared a dangerous offender, and given the facts of his case, most experts agree he is unlikely to ever be released (though he can still apply periodically). Russell Williams, however, has not been declared a dangerous offender and thus will be eligible for parole after serving 25 years in prison. It's impossible to know whether Williams will eventually be granted parole or not.

Parole Eligibility - Provincial Jails

Those sentenced for less than two years serve their time in provincial jails.

In Ontario, offenders serving sentences ranging from six months to two years less a day are eligible for parole after serving one third of their sentence (the same amount of time required in Federal jails). Offenders serving less than six months must apply in writing to be considered for parole. The parole board also has the authority to consider paroling offenders before they have served one third of their sentence where compelling or exceptional circumstances exist.

Please note, this applies only to Ontario. Each province has jurisdiction over their provincial jail systems. Some provinces require two thirds of a sentence to be served before parole eligibility.

Statutory Release

Federal Statutory Release

Even if an offender is denied parole, they will still likely be released after serving two thirds of their sentence.

For federal prisons, offenders are to serve the last one third of their sentence in the community (under conditions). Of course, if the conditions are violated they may have to return to prison to serve the remainder of their sentence (and could face further charges).

Statutory release does not apply to those convicted of 1st or 2nd degree murder (and war crimes, and a few other rare offences). For most convicts however, their release is virtually guaranteed upon serving two thirds of their sentence (even if they were denied parole).

For example, if someone is sentenced to 6 years in prison for a robbery, after two years they can apply for parole. Assuming they are denied parole, they will likely be statutorily released after serving four years.

Provincial Statutory Release

Ontario also has a system that results in many offenders being released upon serving two thirds of their sentences in a provincial jail. It works differently than the federal system in that time is credited for good behaviour, which is eligible to be used towards release upon serving two thirds of a sentence.

While in the federal system the offender's release is practically guaranteed, in the provincial system it is less certain (and is contingent on behaviour).

All decisions involving parole in Ontario are at the discretion of the Ontario Parole Board.

Please Note: We Currently DO NOT provide legal services for parole applications. This is for informational purposes only. 


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Please note: Mark Zinck is a paid criminal lawyer. All information provided on this website is of a general nature and should not replace or be relied on as legal advice. Each case is different and legal decisions ought to be made in consultation with a practising lawyer. Your use of this website is governed by our Terms and Conditions.