Regarding life sentences and parole on such in Canada, having read two articles recently on James Shortreed in William Head Penitentiary.
Up until Aug. 31, I was the "Life Line" inreach worker for Pacific Institution, Matsqui and William Head prisons here in B.C., and worked out of the Abbotsford office of the John Howard Society of the Fraser Valley.
Most Canadians do not know much about what a life sentence is or means in Canada.
First off, there are about 5,000 lifers in Canada. Sixty-one per cent are in Canadian prisons, and 39 per cent are out in the community on parole forever.
Lifers make up 22 per cent of all federal inmates in Canadian prisons.
There are three parole eligibility life sentences in Canada: life to seven (years) for non-homicide conviction, life 10 to 25 for murder two (upon conviction the judge renders a parole eligibility of not less than 10 years and not more than 25 years) - then there is life to 25 for murder one.
Every life sentence has a day parole eligibility three years prior to its full parole eligibility.
Day parolees must live in a government-contracted halfway house under supervision.
The reality of serving a life sentence in Canada is simple. During the first two years, a lifer is a maximum-security inmate mandatorilly.
He or she will do the ICPM (Integrated Correctional Program Model) given in medium security prisons. Then, once designated minimum security, an inmate can ask to be transferred to a minimum institution.
A lifer is eligible to apply for escorted temporary absence (ETA) at their day parole date.
After doing several ETAs, he/she can apply for unescorted temporary absence (UTA).
Almost every lifer in Canada has to go through all this before getting a day parole, and it is very rare for a lifer to get full parole having done less than two years of day parole.
Thirty per cent of all incarcerated lifers in Canada are past their individual day parole dates.
Parole in Canada came into existence in 1956. Day parole came into existence in 1974. St. Leonard's House in Windsor, Ont. became Canada's first halfway house in 1962.
Recidivism for paroled lifers in Canada for a new criminal conviction is 0.8 per cent.
The average for a lifer getting his/her full parole is five years after his/her full parole date.
It is rare a lifer gets out prior to full parole date.
A lifer's first and usually second ETA is with a corrections officer (prison guard), then a lifer can go on ETA with a non-corrections officer.
As a Life Line inreach worker, I took lifers out of minimum-security institutions on ETA. I also spoke on behalf of lifers at their parole hearings.
W. Ford Coquitlam