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A conditional sentence is a non-custodial punishment for crime in Canada.



Conditional refers to rules the offender must follow in order to remain out of prison, which are similar to when one is on parole. These are most often treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, curfews, and community service.[1] Offenders who breach their conditions or re-offend must complete their sentence in prison.

To receive a conditional sentence, the sentencing judge must be satisfied that the offender does not pose a danger to the community. This allows less serious offenders to remain in their communities or at home. The largest percentage of conditional sentences are for property crime.[1] By law, a conditional sentence must be less than two years in duration; they have an average length of eight months.[1], and the offence that the offender was convicted of cannot be punishable by a minimum sentence of imprisonment.

Conditional sentences were introduced in 1995 as a response to perceived over-incarceration, especially among aboriginal Canadians.[2]


Conditional sentences are controversial among some Canadians as being too lenient. For example, Mothers Against Drunk Driving have argued that they should not be available to persons convicted of impaired driving.[3]

Former justice minster Vic Toews, then justice critic for the Conservative Party of Canada, has also criticized them, saying that Canada needs to "get the drug men and the gunmen off the streets and get rid of conditional sentences."[2] In 2008, Stephen Harper noted that in Saskatchewan 39 per cent of criminals sentenced to house arrest were sent back to jail for breaching their conditions.[4] In addition, thousands convicted of crimes of violence, including homicides and sexual assaults have been given conditional sentences. [5]

Proponents of conditional sentences, however, have noted that the courts must not give a conditional sentence if it believes the offender will endanger the community. Furthermore, only a minority of offenders breech their conditions or reoffend, and that conditional sentencing saves taxpayers over $50,000 per inmate each year.[2]

See also




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