Criminal Law

Justice system designed to release offenders back into society

By Staff

News that the man behind the wheel of a vehicle that claimed the lives of three children and their grandfather in an impaired crash two years ago will apply for unattended day release shows how the justice system gradually integrates offenders back into society, Toronto criminal lawyer Joseph Neuberger tells the Stafford Show on AM 640.

“Trying to look at it from the perspective of the victim or the victim’s family will always arrive at an unsatisfactory answer because for them, the loss, the tragedy can never be expunged by any degree of punishment,” he says.

“But when you look at it from the perspective of the safety of society and what we have decided to do with our criminal justice system, reintegrating individuals is inevitable unless they have a life sentence.

“Whether they are a particularly heinous offender or not, at some point they will be released into the community and it’s better to do it on a graduated basis to try and set it up for success than for failure, in my opinion.”

Neuberger, a partner with Neuberger & Partners LLP, says there is no question the crash that claimed the lives of four people is a “horrific” tragedy.

“It’s unfathomable for most of us — it’s incredibly painful,” he says.

But the criminal justice system has to approach each matter objectively about how it reintegrates offenders into society, Neuberger notes. Such decisions cannot be made with emotion or revulsion towards a particular offender, he adds.

Neuberger says an offender’s behaviour inside prison is considered when decisions are made about their release into the community. Society needs to be protected from those inmates who exhibit problematic behaviour.

“Statutory release is generally mandatory for everybody but you can be kept until the end of the sentence, what we call the expiry of the warrant,” he says. “If somebody’s behaviour remains to be particularly dangerous they will then stay in the jail.”

However, if they are doing extremely well in jail, are taking programs, are involved in pro-social activities and are generally not a risk to the community, “these are people who will move through the system quicker because they are showing the same signs in jail as they would outside,” Neuberger says.

“And they are the ones with greater chances of success once released into the community.”

Neuberger says it’s never a foregone conclusion as to whether an inmate will gain permission for day passes, which are to be used for visiting family or attending rehabilitative programs.

“They aren’t just to go out and have a nice day,” he says.

It's important to point out that once an offender is released on full parole, there is supervision and oversight in the community, Neuberger says.

“There is supervision in the community to try and manage whatever risk this person poses,” he says. “It is a graduated process, which is extremely important to protect our society.”

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