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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 193233 Find in a Library
Title: Determining Parole Eligibility Dates for Life Prisoners: Lessons From Jury Hearings in Canada
Journal: Punishment & Society  Volume:4  Issue:1  Dated:January 2002  Pages:103-113
Author(s): Julian V. Roberts
Date Published: 2002
Page Count: 11
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: This article describes the impact of a provision in Canada to allow jurors to determine parole eligibility dates for prisoners serving life terms for murder.
Abstract: In Canada, the public has no say in whether life prisoners are granted parole. However, members of the public (serving as jurors) can determine the amount of time that lifers will serve before becoming eligible to apply for conditional release. Since 1976, most eligible life prisoners have been provided with the right to make an application for a review of their statutory parole eligibility dates. A jury is empanelled to hear applications and has the power to reduce by up to 10 years the time that an inmate must serve before becoming eligible to make an application for parole. Juries in Canada play an important role as gatekeepers for conditional release into the community. In the mid-1990's, the provision was amended in several ways: (1) offenders convicted of multiple or serial murders committed after the amendments came into force were excluded from applying; (2) a superior court judge reviewed all applications; and (3) applicants who had been processed under the pre-amendment rules had to convince only a two-thirds majority of the jurors. Also, the jury would have to be unanimous before granting an inmate the right to make an earlier application for parole. The statistics on the response of the parole authorities to successful applications show that the creation of a jury review provision relating to parole eligibility dates does not necessarily mean creating an automatic review as each prisoner becomes eligible. Only a minority of eligible prisoners applies for a review. The data suggest that whatever opinions members of the public express in response to opinion surveys, when they sit on juries, people can discharge their duties to react as disinterested decision makers, even in cases involving prisoners serving life terms for the most heinous crimes. Jurors’ responses to these applications demonstrate that the members of the public can modulate their response to the merits of the case, and are not overwhelmed by sympathy for the victim, or antipathy to the offender. 1 table, 13 notes, 13 references
Main Term(s): Canada; Jury decisionmaking
Index Term(s): Behavior patterns; Decisionmaking; Foreign judicial systems; Juror characteristics; Jury research; Sentencing statistics
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