Chapter 10: Alternatives to Prison: Probation, Conditional Sentences, and Intermediate Sanctions
• The main alternatives to imprisonment are probation, conditional sentences, and three
types of intermediate punishment intensive supervision probation, home confinement, and
electronic monitoring and day fines.
• Both probation and conditional sentences are forms of community based sanctions.
• Probation has existed in Canada for more than a century; conditional sentences were not
implemented until 1996 as part of the package of reforms proclaimed when Bill C41 was
• Based on the idea that some offenders are not actually dangerous criminals that don’t
• A probation order can be imposed as either a single sentence or as a split sentence.
• With the latter, an offender is required to complete another punishment like pay a fine or
serve a period of time not exceeding two years, before going on probation.
• In Canada, probation is a required accompaniment to a suspended sentence or conditional
• For adult offenders, the maximum length of a probation order is three years.
• Probation typically involves an offender being released into the community under the
supervision of a provincial probation service.
• It is basically a contract between an offender and the state in which promises must be kept
that are mandated by the court.
• If the offender breaks the conditions of probation, a federal statute, or the Criminal Code, a
breach of probation has occurred and he or she is guilty of an offence.
• Mandatory conditions of probation include remaining within a particular jurisdiction,
reporting to a probation officer as required, keeping the peace, keeping authorities
informed about changes of residence, refraining from contact with criminal associates, and
notifying the court or probation officer of any change in employment or occupation.
• The court may include other conditions such as drug counseling, avoiding contact with
children, or preforming a specified community service order.
• Reporting to a probation officer is also an optional condition of probation.
• In the event of an offence, the court can revoke the probation order and impose a
sentence that would have been handed out if the sentence had not been suspended.
• The court may make changes to the optional conditions.
• Judges have considerable discretion when determining whether to give probation.
• Probation has been the most common community based punishment.
• The Use of Probation as a Sanction
• Probation was most likely to be part of a sentence in the category of crimes against the
• The most common offence in the category of crimes against the person where probation was used was criminal harassment (stalking).
• The most common offence in the category of crimes against property when probation was
used were mischief.
• The other category of the criminal code, the most common use of probation was for
• During 200607, the most common length of probation was 612 months.
• Eligibility of Probation
• Probation is commonly given to offenders convicted of violent offences.
• The reasons that it is given to violent offender are: they are usually less serious and the
offender’s prior record suggests this is appropriate.
• Property offenders are more likely to have prior offences than violent offenders and are
more likely to have been sentenced to probation in the past.
• More offender are being sentenced to probation and the probation terms are growing
• Certain violent crimes such as attempted murder, sexual assault, robbery and sexual
abuse are given the longest probation terms, usually around 2 years.
• Two other violent offences, criminal harassment and other crimes against the person have
a median probation length of under two years.
• Breaches of Probation
• Common and have increased over the years.
• Unemployed, young men with a low income, a criminal record, and a history of instability
are at most risk for rearrest while on probation.
• Female probationers with stable marriages, higher level of education, and employment are
most likely to succeed while on probation.
• A number of factors are consistently associated with a sentence of probation: prior record,
previous probation sentence, and prior record of incarceration.
• The Conditional Sentence of Imprisonment
• One of the most controversial sections of Bill C41 was the creation of the conditional
• The conditional sentence is a sentence of imprisonment of less than two years that the
offender serves in the community under both optional and mandatory conditions.
• A conditional sentence may be imposed under the following conditions: the criminal code
does not set a minimum term of imprisonment, court imposes a sentence of less than two
years and the court is satisfied with allowing the offender to serve the sentence in the
community without fear of harm to the community.
• A conditional sentence is meant to be an alternative to imprisonment.
• The hope is that such sentences will reduce the number of incarcerated individuals.
• Mandatory conditions include, law abiding behaviour, appearing before the court when
ordered, remaining within a specific set of boundaries unless the court grants permission to leave, and informing the court or supervisor of any change in address or occupation.
• Optional conditions include, treatment and providing support and care for dependents.
• The most common conditionals include curfews, mandatory medical treatment, and orders
preventing offenders from contacting other people.
• The least used is home confinement and electronic monitoring.
• While the terms of a conditional sentence and probation appear to be similar to those
available under probation, there are differences in purposes as well as enforcement
• Conditional sentences are more punishing than probation.
• A conditional sentence does not have to be the same length as a period of incarceration
for example a 6 month period of incarceration can be a condition sentence of a year.
• Supreme court ruled that when an offender breaches a conditional sentence, he or she will
presumably serve the rest of the sentence incarcerated.
• Indictable offences punishable by 10 years or more qualify as either serious personal injury
offences, terrorism offences, or criminal organization offences are ineligible from receiving
• The Use of Conditional Sentences
• The medium length of conditional sentences was 8 months.
• Across Canada, conditional sentences were most often used for crimes against property.
• Women were given conditional sentences the most.
• Offenders between 31 and 40 received the greatest number of conditional sentences.
• The Impact of Conditional Sentences
• With conditional sentences, more people are being placed under the supervision of the
• Total number of imprisonment sentences handed down has changed little since conditional
sentences were introduced in 1996.
• Conditional sentences may lead to net widening.
• Net widening occurs when offenders are diverted into a new program, such as conditional
sentencing, even though they are not really for whom the program was intended for.
• As a result, those individuals are given harsher sanctions, if the program was never
launched in the first place.
• Many of these people would have received probation.
• Intermediate Sanctions
• Community corrections have traditionally used rehabilitation as an approach to dealing
• Intermediate sanctions have been introduced in an attempt to introduce more control over
offenders who have been released into the community.
• Intermediate sanctions include programs usually administered by probation departments,
such as intensive supervision probation, home confinement, fines electronic monitoring and restitution orders.
• They are an outgrowth of justice modelbased policies.
• The main concern relating to these programs is that a large number of offenders serving
these types of sentences, might recidivate and be placed in a correctional setting.
• Intermediate sanctions were introduced to reduce prison overcrowding and to reduce the
costs of placing offenders in the correctional system.
• Help rehabilitate offenders through mandatory treatment orders reinforced by mandatory
substance abuse tests.
• This form of punishment is popular because it is believed that the costs are lower, some
jurisdictions require the offender to pay for the costs of the program, save money by
diverting people away from prison, result in sentences that seem fair, equitable and
• May also lead to greater deterrence because the amount of surveillance makes it likely
that anyone violating the terms of the program will be caught and punished.
• Critics argue that the benefits of intermediate punishments have not been achieved,
instead they believe that these programs have brought new punishments that incarcerate
more offenders than before.
• Penal Harm Movement
• The root causes of crime such as social inequality, racism, poverty cannot be changed or
have no relevance to the causes of crime.
• Any programs developed and implemented to combat these root causes of crime are
misplaced and will not reduce the crime rate.
• Criminals will only be deterred with harsh punishments.
• Prisons are an effective means of reducing crime because they keep criminals off the
• Society will be much safer with large numbers of criminals in prison.
• Offenders in the community should be controlled through intermediate punishments.
• If crime rates do not decrease, more punishment, community control, and prisons will be
• Intensive Supervision Probation
• Most common form of intermediate punishment today.
• Said to reduce prison populations, eliminate the need to build more prisons, and prevent
the negative impact of imprisonment on offenders.
• Promoting public safety as all offen