Yesterday, the Alberta government announced that they’d introduced and held first reading for Bill 18: Corrections (Alberta Parole Board) Amendment Act. If passed, the act would allow Alberta to follow in the footsteps of Ontario and Québec in creating their own provincial board.
An Alberta Parole Board would have limited power, however. It’d oversee parole and early release cases for those only in provincial correctional facilities, which are sentences under two years long. Parole and early release cases for inmates in federal penitentiaries—of which there are 10 in Alberta—will still be overseen by the federal parol board.
All parole and early release cases are overseen by the federal parole board, and implementing a provincial board won’t eliminate the federal board’s operation in the province. It’d reduce its role slightly.
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The bill doesn’t indicate how many members will constitute the board. By comparison, Ontario has 34 parole board positions (6 of them vacant and only 7 of them are full-time), and Québec has 38 people on their parole board (11 are full-time).
Board members will be appointed by the lieutenant governor but at the recommendation of the provincial cabinet, similar to how many of the province’s boards, commissions, and task forces are organized.
Terms will be for up to 5 years, but board members may be eligible for reappointment. There’s no indication in the bill regarding limits to the number of terms. Potentially, board members could sit on the parole board indefinitely, assuming the provincial cabinet kept reappointing them.
The bill outlines that board members will receive renumeration, including “expenses subsistence and travelling”, but does not detail how much the remuneration or expense reimbursement would be.
In a tweet yesterday, Jason Kenney said that a provincial parole board will lead to a “fairer, faster, and more responsive justice system”:
In section 27.7(2), Bill 18 states that the parole board may grant parole to an inmate if, in its opinion, the following two conditions are met:
- The inmate won’t, by reoffending, present an undue risk to society before their sentence expires
- Releasing the inmate will help protect society by facilitating their reintegration into society as a law-abiding citizen.
What’s not clear is how this differs from the federal parole board. Is the federal parole board releasing inmates who, in its opinion, present an undue risk to society? Are they releasing inmates whose parole, in its opinion, won’t facilitate the inmates’ reintegration into society?
It seems highly unlikely that the federal parole board is releasing inmates on parole who they’re confident still are a risk to the public or who won’t reintegrate into society. And if they are, let’s see the data on that.
Until such data is presented—showing that the federal parole board is knowingly releasing at-risk inmates—the promise of a “fairer, faster, and more responsive justice system” is an empty one.
We’ll likely end up with a system similar to what we have now, except we’ll have a provincial parole board and a federal parole board and paying for both.