I don’t usually write posts on narrow and specific legal issues, but this one has come up a couple of times lately. Although most people are only familiar with the idea of “contempt of court” from television, it’s a real thing and yes, a judge can send you to jail for it. Then once in jail, a client is going to very understandably have some questions about how to get out of jail again at the soonest possible point in time. And that’s where I come in.
Without getting too technical about it, someone who is sent to jail on contempt of court is in one of two possible situations. The first is if the judge says, effectively, “go to jail for X number of days, then come back in front of me and reconsider your position on whatever it is that’s a problem.” In a case like that, the client simply isn’t entitled to early release and most of the rules that apply to a normal sentence do not apply here. The second situation is if the judge says “you’re out of chances, I’m just giving you a jail sentence for X days.” Although you’d have to pay close attention in court to tell the difference between these two situations, one clear sign would be that in the first case, the client is probably coming back before the judge very soon, while in the second the client would have potentially months to serve in jail. I’ve seen as long as a year.
The important point is this. In the second situation, the client is in the same position (in most ways) as anyone else who has been sent to jail for a while after being convicted of a crime. In other words, they are entitled to parole and other rules that apply to early release such as earned remission. Except the sticking point is that the Corrections system seems to not know this. In every case I’ve encountered, the Corrections system applies the first assumption to the situation – where the normal rules do not apply – rather than the second. And based on what I’ve seen, I expect this to continue happening unless counsel steps in to straighten it out.
I really hope no one reading this finds themselves in a situation like this. Every client I’ve had where that happened heard so many different things from so many different people – well-intentioned advice that was simply wrong – it made things very difficult to untangle. It’s a bad situation to be in. But this is the website people tend to find when they search up parole in Ontario, and hopefully if anyone is dealing with this situation for someone they care about they’ll come across this article. If that applies in your case, please just contact me. This is absolutely not a simple problem.