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Alberta moves to set up provincial parole board

If Bill 18 passes, the new system could be up and running by January 2021 and cost around $600,000 to operate annually, but some of those costs would be footed by the feds.
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On Monday morning, the Alberta government announced it would be setting up a parole board for provincial inmates rather than using the federal parole board.

The bill was introduced in the legislature and, if passed, Premier Jason Kenney said it would help tackle rural crime.

"Too often, that's because of a revolving-door justice system where criminals are arrested, convicted and are back out on the street revictimizing more Albertans and causing frustration for our police and law-abiding citizens," Kenney said.

The premier said rural Alberta has experienced an unprecedented wave in property crime in the last five years. Bill 18, the Corrections Amendment Act would fulfil a UCP campaign promise to start a provincial parole board.

The new board would replace the Parole Board of Canada’s jurisdiction in Alberta, but only to hear applications for release from inmates who have served a sentence of less than two years in jail in a provincial correctional centre. All other inmates, who are imprisoned federally, will still use the Parole Board of Canada.

"The federal parole boards filled with Ottawa's appointees aren't as sensitive or as responsive to the needs and concerns of Alberta communities as they could be or should be," Kenney said.

“When they make mistakes and set loose dangerous criminals who commit further crimes, it's Albertans who pay the price."

Kenney said the new system will be up and running by January 2021 and is expected to cost around $600,000 to operate annually, but some of those costs would be footed by the feds.

Currently Quebec and Ontario have their own separate parole boards for provincial matters.

The premier said 212 provincial inmates applied for parole in Alberta in 2019 and the parole board approved 50 applications. Three of those applications were revoked by the parole board for unknown reasons.

The premier said the new system will increase transparency for Albertans.

“The Alberta parole board in the future, which we expect to be operational by January of 2021, will be fully transparent will track parolees very closely and report to Albertans on the status of those in the system," he said.

“(An) Alberta parole board will strengthen Alberta's autonomy and our control over a very important part of our justice system. That means more Alberta and less Ottawa.

“That quest for fairness is driven by a desire for government that is more focused on the needs and goals of Albertans.”

Jennifer Henderson covers rural Alberta matters under the Local Journalism initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada