Premier Jason Kenney introduces legislation to create Alberta parole board

Premier Jason Kenney introduced legislation Monday to take control of the fate of provincial prisoners from the federal government by creating an Alberta parole board.

Kenney blamed a “revolving door” criminal justice system for an “unprecedented wave of property crime,” specifically in rural Alberta, adding Ottawa’s appointees aren’t sensitive to Alberta’s needs.

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“An Alberta parole board will strengthen Alberta’s autonomy and control over a very important part of our criminal justice system. That means more Alberta, and less Ottawa,” said Kenney at a news conference Monday morning before Bill 18, the Corrections Amendments Act, was tabled.

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The federal parole board is currently responsible for the fate of all prisoners when they are released. The provincial board would decide whether inmates serving sentences in provincial jails — which hold inmates sentenced to two years or less — should be allowed conditional release.

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Alberta parole board members will be appointed based on knowledge of specific areas of crime and membership in rural communities affected by crime, making them better equipped than federal appointees, he said. They will be “a lot more sensitive to the public safety imperative than we believe the federal system has been,” said Kenney.

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It will cost about $600,000 annually, but Alberta will receive some federal funding, similar to Quebec and Ontario, who already have their own parole boards. Regardless of increased incarceration time, prison costs are mostly fixed, said Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer.

“We don’t want to pre-suppose what the decisions would be for the Alberta parole board, but we do believe it will have a better reflection of whats happening on the ground,” he said.

Schweitzer said in town halls held last fall, Albertans said they were frustrated in the justice system, and this move would help to restore confidence.

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