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Some reflections on new criminal justice policies in Canada: restorative justice, alternative measures and conditional sentences

La Prairie, Carol
June 4, 2015

Source: (1999) Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 32(2): 139-152.

A review analyzes significant changes in sentencing policy in Canada in the past 2 years. New legislation in 1996 contains 2 provisions that have the potential to reduce the use of imprisonment, especially at the provincial and territorial levels: the introduction of conditional sentences, which allows the courts to order that a prison sentence of up to 2 years (less 1 day) may be served in the community, subject to good behavior and provided that such an order would not endanger the community; and the formal introduction of alternative sentences for adult offenders, with each provincial or territorial jurisdiction having flexibility to establish guidelines for the administration of the measures.

Another related change in Canadian criminal justice policy has been the adoption of the concept of “restorative justice.” A general over-reliance on the use of imprisonment and the overrepresentation of Aboriginal offenders in prison have been longstanding problems in Canada. But without the provision of appropriate guidelines as well as adequate community resources to support them, it is unlikely that the new initiatives will have much impact on incarceration levels or indigenous overrepresentation.


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