In the criminal justice system, an offender, if found guilty, is either:
- sentenced to a term of imprisonment
- released into the community under strict conditions according to the provisions of either the Criminal Code or the Provincial Offences Act.
The processes described here apply only to Ontario's correctional system where offenders are sentenced to terms of not more than two years less one day. If the sentence is two years or more, it is served in a penitentiary (under federal jurisdiction).
Types of sentences
A sentence is the ruling that a court hands down in response to a charge and it determines the offender's punishment.
There are four types of sentences:
- Concurrent sentences merge into one and are served simultaneously. This merged sentence is called the aggregate or combined sentence.
example: an offender who is sentenced to two concurrent terms of 12 months each would serve a 12-month sentence, not a 24-month sentence.
- Sentences merge for the purpose of calculating an offender's parole eligibility date, the discharge possible date and the final warrant expiry date. An explanation of these terms is included under the section entitled Release from custody.
- consecutive sentences run separately and begin one after the other
example: an offender who is sentenced to two consecutive terms of 12 months each would serve a 24-month sentence
- the Criminal Code states that all sentences are concurrent unless specified as consecutive by a trial judge
- under the Provincial Offences Act, however, sentences are consecutive unless ordered by the courts
- an intermittent sentence of up to 90 days is served on specific days only and not on consecutive days of the week
example: An offender who is sentenced to an intermittent sentence could serve his/her time from Friday night to Monday morning
- a probation order, outlining specific conditions and restrictions, is mandatory when the offender is in the community
- if an offender re-offends while on an intermittent sentence, and is sentenced to a further term of imprisonment, the intermittent sentence is served on consecutive days like an ordinary sentence in addition to the new sentence imposed by the second trial judge
A conditional sentence is:
- a term of up to two years less a day
- served in the community under supervision rather than in a correctional facility
The court must be satisfied that serving the sentence in the community will not endanger public safety and may impose mandatory conditions and restrictions.
If the offender does not meet the conditions and restrictions, he/she can be returned to court and ordered to serve some or all of the remainder of his/her sentence in custody.