Understanding the Opposition to Parole: Surveying Public Opinion of the Canadian Parole System

Rachel Dioso, University of Toronto

The present study examines the nature of public opposition to parole. A total of 400 respondents were included in the survey from across Toronto, Ontario. Respondents were randomly distributed among four experimental information conditions. They either received no additional information about the benefits of parole (CONTROL), information regarding the imminent release of offenders (IMMINENT RELEASE), information on the costs of imprisonment in Canada versus the costs of parole sanctions (PAROLE COSTS), or they received both information sets on the benefits of parole (BOTH). Five hypotheses were tested: (1) that the lack of accurate knowledge regarding the benefits of parole is related to public opposition to parole in general; (2) parole, like any other area of the criminal justice system, is viewed as too lenient on offenders; (3) parole diminishes the principle of proportionality and equity between offenders convicted of similar offences in sentencing; (4) parole diminishes feelings of public safety; and (5) that the administration of parole is unsatisfactory. Each factor that may account for the public's opposition to parole has been found to work interdependently to weave a complex tapestry of pubic attitudes.

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Updated 05/20/2006