Although it’s shockingly hard to obtain reliable stats about parole, anecdotal evidence as well as my own observations agree that it seems to be granted more easily lately. There’s no official change or policy to cite. I simply suspect that at some point, the Parole Board had a meeting and sent down some instructions to the Members who run hearings. Whatever has changed, it does seem like more people are getting out early.
Unfortunately, there’s a negative side effect to this trend. With more paroles comes more opportunities to breach parole. And I truly think there’s limited understanding out there about the consequences of this. Even among lawyers there’s limited familiarity with the Parole Board. But mainly, people serving time aren’t getting their information from lawyers anyway. They are talking to each other, as they always do. Time was, prisoners would generally tell each other that even trying for parole was a waste of time. I’m sure many still believe that, but more and more I’m hearing reports that they are beginning to catch on that parole is a real possibility. What they don’t know, however, is that a breach of parole – any breach of parole – can be a nightmare. The Parole Board can and will put you right back into jail and order you to serve the remainder of your sentence. You’ll lose all credit for the time you served. Depending on when, exactly, you breach your parole, you could end up doing more time than the 2/3 you would originally have served!
Anyway, I just did back-to-back parole revocation hearings. And I don’t think the word is out there yet. On top of everything, I think the Ontario Parole Board is punitively harsh in the way they interpret and adjudicate breaches. But that’s a topic for another day. What I’ll simply say for now, is that if guys want to trade information and put the word out that parole is possible now, I’m glad. I’ve been working for years to get the word out there. But I hope they also spread the news that breach of parole isn’t the same, relatively minor situation as breach of bail or probation. Because it isn’t just the same. And I’ll do my best to sort things out for anyone caught up in a revocation situation. But I’d rather they not end up there in the first place.