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Outcomes of probation and conditional sentence supervision

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The Daily

Friday, December 15, 2006
2003/2004 to 2004/2005

Adult offenders who spent their sentence under supervision in the community were far less likely to become re-involved with correctional authorities within 12 months of their release than those who were in a correctional institution, according to a new study.

The study examined two groups of offenders. The first consisted of those who were on community supervision and who were returned to correctional supervision, that is, were re-involved after they were released. The second consisted of those who were re-involved after they were released from custody.

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The study found that in four provinces, 11% of people who were on community supervision became re-involved with correctional authorities within 12 months of their release in 2003/2004. Among those in custody only, 30% were re-involved, a proportion that was more than double the proportion of those on community supervision (11%).

It was not possible to examine the relationship between prior criminal history and offender outcomes in this study. Criminal history is an often-cited risk factor for repeated involvement in the criminal justice system.

Note to readers

This release is based on the special topic Juristat "Outcomes of probation and conditional sentence supervision: An analysis of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Alberta, 2003/2004 to 2004/2005.

The study provides data on the characteristics and outcome profiles of the adult correctional population in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, and Alberta between 2003/2004 and 2004/2005, with emphasis on the outcomes of those under community correctional supervision.

The outcomes examined include breach of conditions of community supervision and return to correctional supervision following release from correctional services (re-involvement).

Offender case histories are examined in relation to such concepts as the conditions attached to community correctional supervision, most serious offence, and characteristics of offenders, such as age, Aboriginal Identity and sex.

This study is the second analyzing data from the Integrated Correctional Services Survey, which is currently being implemented by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics in jurisdictions across Canada.

For the purpose of this report, an involvement in correctional services is defined as an adult who is under a continuous period of correctional supervision under one or more legal statuses. This supervision includes sentences of custody of less than two years, custodial remand or other temporary detention, and probation, conditional sentences, bail supervision and other community correctional programs.

Given that the severity of a sentence received is often affected by the length and type of criminal history, offenders who are serving their sentences in the community may be "lower risk" offenders than those receiving custodial sentences, according to previous research.

Among the adults on community supervision, those with a conditional sentence had slightly higher re-involvement rates than those serving probation.

The study covered five provinces. Complete custody and community data allowing a comparison between the two groups of offenders were available for Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan. For Alberta, only community supervision data were available.

Results of this study supplement what little is known about the rate and extent of breaching community supervision and re-involvement in the correctional system following the completion of community supervision.

History of breaching conditions associated with higher rates of re-involvement

There are mandatory conditions of community supervision imposed in the case of probation and conditional sentences. However, judges may also impose additional optional conditions such as the requirement to attend counselling and/or treatment, abstain from drugs and/or alcohol, or perform community service. A breach occurs when an offender violates a condition of supervision.

This study showed that the proportion of adults who returned to the correctional system within 12 months of their release from community supervision was twice as high for those with a history of breaching conditions as for those with no history of breaching.

With respect to conditional sentences, data from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan show that 42% of adult offenders with a history of breaching conditions returned within 12 months, twice the rate of 21% among those with no history.

In the case of probation, among the four provinces with complete data (Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan), 36% of offenders who had a history of breaching returned within a year, also twice the rate of 18% among those with no history.

For these provinces, re-involvement rates varied by offence type. Higher rates of re-involvement were seen for offences of breaking and entering, theft and possession of stolen property, or robbery. Some of the lowest re-involvement rates were found for sexual offences, drug offences and Criminal Code traffic offences.

Admission to custody can result from a breach of a conditional sentence

With conditional sentences, a breach of condition may result in an immediate admission to prison.

Data on admission to prison as a result of a breach of a conditional sentence were available for New Brunswick and Saskatchewan. In New Brunswick, 23% of offenders serving a conditional sentence and 39% in Saskatchewan were admitted to custody because of a breach of condition.

Compared to their male counterparts, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women had lower rates of admission resulting from a breach of conditional sentence in both New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.

For example, in Saskatchewan, 49% of Aboriginal men and 29% of non-Aboriginal men were admitted to custody, compared to 37% of Aboriginal women and 16% of non-Aboriginal women.

Breach of probation and conditional sentences in Alberta

Given the availability of data, it was possible only for Alberta to examine breaches by type of community supervision, probation or conditional sentence, and by type of condition breached.

Between 2003/2004 and 2004/2005, about one-third (34%) of offenders on probation breached a condition, whereas only 25% of offenders on conditional sentences did so.

The most frequently breached mandatory condition in Alberta was failure to notify of any change of address, place of employment, education or training. For those serving probation or those serving a conditional sentence, about 11% of offenders breached this condition.

Failing to report and to be supervised was a condition breached by 10% of offenders on probation in Alberta.

The highest breach rates for those on probation occurred among offenders whose most serious offence was robbery or breaking and entering. The lowest rates were for sexual offences and Criminal Code traffic offences.

Similar breach rates by offence type were observed for those serving conditional sentences; however, drug offences were also found to be associated with lower breach rates.

The Juristat "Outcomes of probation and conditional sentence supervision: An analysis of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Alberta, 2003/2004 to 2004/2005," Vol. 26, no. 7 (85-002-XIE, free) is now available from our website. From the Publications module, under Free Internet publications, choose Justice, then Juristat. A paper version (85-002-XPE, $11/$100) is also available.

For further information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Information and Client Services (toll-free 1-800-387-2231; 613-951-9023), Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.