Prisoner rights are the legal protections and fundamental human rights afforded to individuals who have been incarcerated or detained by the government as a result of their involvement in the criminal justice system. These rights are designed to ensure that prisoners are treated fairly, with dignity, and in accordance with the principles of justice.
The key legislation governing Canadian federal prisons is the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. This legislation purports to protect the human rights of prisoners by regulating confinement conditions, health care, correctional plans for rehabilitation, escorted temporary absences, grievances, searches and seizures, structured intervention units, conditional release, parole eligibility, statutory release, and so on.
Canadian prisoners also retain protections under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms including the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, the right to freedom from cruel and unusual treatment or punishment, and the rights to substantive equality and freedom from discrimination.
Prisoners’ rights include:
- Protection from Cruel and Unusual Punishment: This includes protection from excessive force, torture, and inhumane conditions of confinement.
- Right to Due Process: Prisoners have the right to a fair and impartial disciplinary process, which includes notice of charges, the right to present a defense, and the right to appeal disciplinary decisions.
- Access to Medical Care: Prisoners have a right to adequate medical care, as withholding necessary medical treatment can constitute a violation of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
- Freedom of Religion: Prisoners generally have the right to practice their religion, subject to certain limitations imposed by legitimate security concerns.
- Protection from Discrimination: Prisoners are protected from discrimination based on factors such as race, religion, gender, or disability.
- Visitation Rights: Many legal systems allow prisoners to have regular contact with their family and friends, although this can be subject to security considerations.
- Access to Education and Rehabilitation Programs: Access to programming is crucial to rehabilitation and therefore one’s chances at parole. Programming also aims to help prisoners acquire new skills and prepare for reintegration into society.
- Protection of Personal Property: Prisoners generally have a right to the protection of their personal property while incarcerated.
- Privacy Rights: Prisoners have some limited expectation of privacy in their cells and personal belongings.
Various independent bodies, such as the Office of the Correctional Investigator and Canadian Senate continuously find that the Correctional Service of Canada frequently fails to meet its legal obligations under the CCRA. More disturbingly, organizations continue to describe CSC’s relationship with the Rule of Law as tenuous.
The Senate, for instance, has called upon the Canadian Government to immediately implement all Calls to Action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples in Canadian federal prisons. The Senate also called for studies and strategies to combat the overrepresentation of Black persons.
CSC frequently fails to provide adequate health care as required by the CCRA. Injuries are often needlessly neglected which in turn exacerbates the initial injury.
Prisoners retain the common law right to sue CSC for torts such as negligence and assault and battery, as well as the constitutional right to sue for a remedy for Charter violations.
If you are a prisoner or a loved one fears that a prisoner’s rights have been violated, contact Jeffrey Hartman at 416-613-0416 to discuss the situation. Jeffrey had built his reputation on advocating for his client’s rights against CSC and its lawyers to get the justice that prisoners are entitled to.
Parole Hearings & Prison Law
Lockyer Zaduk Zeeh regularly conducts parole hearings for offenders convicted of all offences including murder. The lawyers at LZZ are successful at securing parole for their clients and ensuring their return into the community. LZZ represents people nationwide who need assistance during their parole hearing. LZZ also provides consultation services to assist those navigating the complexities of the prison system.
An inmate convicted of a crime are eligible for parole after they have served one-third of their sentence, and eligible for statutory release after they have served two-thirds of their sentence. These numbers are determined based on the remnant of the individual’s sentence after they have received credit for pre-sentence custody. For example, if an individual is sentenced to 4 years in custody, but they received credit for 1.5 years, the 1/3 and 2/3 numbers will be calculated based on the remaining sentence of 2.5 years.
The rules differ when deal with a life sentence. Individuals convicted of first-degree murder are not eligible for parole until they have served 25 years of their sentence. For individuals convicted of second-degree murder, the judge will set parole eligibility between 10 and 25 years. The individual would have the right to a parole hearing after 7 years, if they have been sentenced to a life sentence without a minimum period of ineligibility.
Some offenders are also eligible for work release, Day Parole, or Unescorted Temporary Absences. Parole-by-Exception can also be secured in extraordinary circumstances.
What to Expect at a Parole Hearing
Parole hearings are significantly different than other hearings in the criminal justice system. They take place before a tribunal made up of Parole Board members, rather than a judge, and they are typically held at the prison where the individual is serving their sentence.
The purpose of the hearing is to help the Board members assess the risk the individual may pose to the public should they be granted conditional release. Board members determine whether this risk could be managed effectively in the community.
Much of the hearing is devoted to the Board’s questioning of the offender. The offender’s lawyer and parole officer may also make submissions. A victim may present a victim impact statement.
Our Lawyers Succeed at Parole Hearings in Provincial and Federal Institutions
Our lawyers have had great success before both the Ontario Parole Board and Parole Board of Canada. Our lawyers have secured release for the those convicted of the most serious offences, including gun offences and individuals convicted of multiple homicides. LZZ works with offenders to develop strong release plans and to ensure that they are well-prepared for the tough questions asked at parole hearings.
Common Questions Regarding Parole
What is the difference between Provincial and Federal corrections?
Provincial corrections is concerned with offenders who have been sentenced for two years less a day, or less, only. Federal corrections is concerned with offenders who have been sentenced for two years or more.
What is the intake process when you are incarcerated?
Once you have been sentenced, an intake assessment occurs to determine your risk level and needs. After the intake, you will be placed in an institution which meets your security level and a correctional plan will be crafted to suit your needs. The intake will identify your risk factors, your background, and your risks to the institution and correctional staff.
What is the difference between minimum, medium, and maximum security institutions?
Maximum Security: They are the most restrictive institutions since they house those who pose the greatest risk of escape and hence, the greatest danger to society. The buildings are surrounded by barbed-wire fences, and correctional officers are armed and posted in towers or other strategic surveillance locations.
Medium Security: Although medium institutions are fenced, the institution is less restrictive.
Minimum Security: Minimum security institutions are like small communities where inmates live in housing units with no fencing. Inmates’ routines are less restrictive. They can organize their schedule according to the activities they are required to participate in, and often are responsible for their own meals. This creates a sense of responsibility and prepares them for life in the community.
What is a Correctional Plan?
A Correctional Plan is a document that outlines a customized risk management strategy for each offender before they leave institutions on conditional release. This will include courses and programs that must be completed.
What is parole – When am I eligible for parole?
Parole allows offenders to serve their sentences in the community under strict conditions of release and the supervision of a parole officer. If they abide by their conditions of release, they will remain under sentence in the community until their sentence is completed in full, or for life in the case of offenders serving life or indefinite sentences.
Inmates are eligible for full parole after serving one-third of their sentence, or seven years, whichever is less. Different eligibility rules apply for offenders serving life sentences for murder or indeterminate sentences. The fact that offenders are eligible for parole, however, does not mean parole will be granted since the Parole Board would need to grant parole.
What kinds of conditional release are there?
Temporary Absence (Escorted or Unescorted): Temporary releases are granted for medical or humanitarian reasons, or to provide inmates with an opportunity to attend appropriate programs in the community. Unescorted temporary absences from federal maximum and medium security institutions are limited to 48 hours per month (or 72 hours in minimum security). Wardens have the right to grant temporary absences to inmates serving less than five years, while the board deals with those serving longer sentences. Provincial institutions have their own temporary absence policies and programs.
Day Parole: Day Parole provides an opportunity for inmates to participate in approved community-based activities. It may be granted to complete education or training, to take part in community service projects or seasonal work, or to maintain or strengthen family ties. Day Parole may be granted for a maximum of 12 months, but the usual term is four to six months. It can also be extended. Day Parole decisions are made by the Parole Board.
Full Parole: Offenders may be eligible for Full Parole after serving the first third of their sentence. If granted Full Parole, offenders will serve the balance of their sentence under supervision in the community.
What is statutory release – When am I eligible for statutory release
Statutory release, however, is a legal provision that automatically entitles most offenders, who have not been granted parole, to serve the final one-third of their sentence in the community. Offenders serving life and indeterminate sentences are not entitled to statutory release.
When you are released on statutory release, you will be in the community under strict conditions of release and the supervision of a parole officer.
Who makes decisions on parole – Who is the Parole Board?
The Parole Board of Canada is the organization of the criminal justice system that makes independent, conditional-release and pardon decisions, and clemency recommendations. Although your parole officers, also known as your case management team, will provide his or her input on your release, it is only a recommendation that the Parole Board will consider when making their decision.
What factors does the Parole Board consider when making decisions?
Board members assess each case individually in terms of risk and public safety. The Board’s assessment of the risk presented by an offender on parole is based on three major factors:
- Criminal history;
- Institutional behaviour and benefit from programs; and
- Release plan.
Youth Criminal Justice Act
In most situations, the criminal justice system allows for youth to be treated differently than adults when charged with a criminal offence. If a young person breaks the law, they may receive a warning or caution from the police, be referred to a community program, or charged and sent to a youth justice court.
A young offender is an individual between the ages of 12 and 17, who commits an offence under the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Young offenders are regulated by the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Among other things, the Act lays out the applicable extrajudicial measures, the organization of the Youth Criminal Justice System, judicial measures that the youth justice court may take and provisions for sentencing, custody and supervision. The Youth Criminal Justice Act emphasizes the importance of accountability, rehabilitation and reintegration. The Act seeks to address the root cause of the youth’s criminal behavior and any underlying issues. The Youth Criminal Justice Act recognizes that young offenders have different needs and require different forms of protection and rehabilitation from adults.
If your child is under 18, the police are required to contact you if they are arrested. Upon receiving the call, it is important to call a lawyer as soon as possible. Where the youth has been detained at a police station, it is important for you, along with a lawyer, to be present during police questioning.
The criminal defence lawyers at LZZ have extensive experience successfully defending youths against all types of criminal charges. If you or someone you know between the ages of 12 and 17 has been charged with a criminal offence you should contact a criminal lawyer immediately to help determine the best defence. Call us at (416) 613-0416 or (416) 595-9500 or contact us online for a free consultation.
Common Questions Regarding the Youth Criminal Justice Act
What is a Notice to Parents?
Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the officer in charge is required to give notice to the youth’s parent as soon as possible. If the youth does not live with their parents, or is unsure of their whereabouts, another suitable adult is able to receive the notice.
Can I Attend the Police Station if my Child is Arrested?
Yes, you can and should attend the police station as soon as possible. The police have a duty to tell you if your child has been arrested. A lawyer, parent or guardian, is also able to be present during questioning by police.
Can I Bail my Child out of Custody?
Yes, you can bail your child out of jail if you are found to be a suitable surety. Characteristics of a suitable surety can include, but are not limited to, the following: you have no criminal record, or any outstanding charges, you are not currently acting as a surety for another accused person and the young person has not previously breached their release order while you were acting as their surety.
What Sentences can I get if I am a Youth?
Judges hearing youth matters have a wider range of discretion when it comes to sentencing. The purpose of a youth sentence is to hold the young person accountable for their actions by imposing sanctions that have meaningful consequences for them. The goal of sentencing is to promote the youth’s rehabilitation and reintegration into society. The intention is to craft a sentence that contributes to the long-term protection of the public.
As with adults, when being sentenced, Judges can impose Absolute Discharges or Conditional Discharges, Restitution Orders and Probation Orders. Additionally, Youth Court Judges can impose a Judicial Reprimand, Intensive Support and Supervision, Attendance Orders, Deferred Custody and Supervision, and Intensive Rehabilitative Custody and Supervision.
Judicial Reprimand – is a severe admonishment from a Youth Court Judge that results in no criminal record. It is only used when the Court believes that the youth person has already been held accountable for their offending behaviour.
Intensive Support and Supervision – an alternative option a Judge may impose rather than jail. The youth person serves their sentence in the community and has access to programs that will assist in their rehabilitation.
Attendance Order – this is based on the youth person’s needs and circumstances. A Judge orders the youth to attend for specific counselling or programs that will benefit them.
Deferred Custody and Supervision – not available for particular violent crimes, it allows a youth person to serve their sentence in the community under supervision and with specific conditions.
Intensive Rehabilitative Custody and Supervision – this is a sentencing option that is available for violent youth offenders with a violent criminal record, or youth persons suffering from mental or psychological disorders. Its purpose is to provide the youth with a tailored treatment plan and specific programs that will assist with their rehabilitation.
What are Extrajudicial Sanctions (EJS)?
Extrajudicial sanctions are programs that are completed outside of the courtroom. These programs typically can include some form of community service or counselling. Depending on the severity of charges and allegations, the Crown Attorney may agree to allow the charges to be resolved by way of EJS. There is no guilty plea, but the accused person would make an admission of responsibility for their offending behaviour and agree to participate in counselling, community service or other appropriate sanctions. Upon the successful completion of these sanctions the charges would be withdrawn.
Can a Young Offender be Tried as an Adult?
Under special circumstances, a youth between the ages of 14-18 can be prosecuted as an adult under the Criminal Code, or sentenced as an adult, for certain violent offences. If a youth has been charged with a crime, it is imperative to have a youth criminal lawyer fighting by their side to ensure that they have the best possible defence. In Canada children under 12 years old cannot be charged with a criminal offence.
Are Youth Records Deleted when you Turn 18 Years of Age?
Youth criminal records are NOT automatically erased or sealed once a youth becomes an adult. Often a youth must wait several years from the time they complete their youth sentence for this to happen. This can have lasting effects on a youth’s ability to work and travel.
Should I Retain a Defence Lawyer for my Child?
The criminal defence lawyers at LZZ have extensive experience successfully defending youths. If you or your child has been criminally charged you should contact a criminal lawyer immediately to help determine the best defence. Call us at (416) 613-0416 or (416) 595-9500 or contact us online for a free consultation.
Regulatory Law and Professional Discipline
The principles and procedures of administrative and public law that govern proceedings before tribunals in Ontario draw significantly from Canadian criminal law. Also, as in criminal law, stellar oral and written advocacy is the key to success in the administrative law context. Unlike most of the lawyers who practice at large Bay Street firms and take on administrative law cases, LZZ lawyers have a vast amount of trial and appellate experience.
We appear before judges and juries daily. This places us in a distinctly advantageous position – over our Bay Street peers – to represent clients before administrative tribunals. And our results establish this. Our firm has a broad range of experience before administrative tribunals in Ontario, including the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission, the License Appeal Tribunal and Colleges governed by the Regulated Health Professions Act. LZZ represents commercial trucking companies against MTO suspension and seizure orders and the drivers and owner operators of such companies who face prosecution under the Highway Traffic Act.
We have successfully represented lawyers and health care professionals against allegations of misconduct before their regulatory bodies and at the Divisional Court. We frequently represent bar and restaurant owners in liquor license cases and assist individuals and corporations under audit by the Canada Revenue Agency. LZZ has also expanded the scope of its administrative and regulatory law practice to the Ontario Securities Commission.
The criminal defence lawyers at LZZ have extensive experience successfully defending against all regulatory and professional discipline related allegations If you or someone you know has been charged with a regulatory or professional discipline related charge you should contact a criminal lawyer immediately to help determine the best defence. Call us at (416) 613-0416 or (416) 595-9500 or contact us online for a free consultation.