What happens at a parole board hearing?

The hearing usually takes place at the institution where the offender is imprisoned. Members of the National Parole Board travel around to each institution to conduct the hearings. They read the file which has background information about the offender, including reports about his or her participation in correctional programs and reports about rules of the institution which the person has broken. Present at the hearing are the board members, the offender, the parole officer and the offender’s assistant, as well as any members of the public who have applied to observe the hearing. This could include members of the victim’s family, members of the offender’s family and people from the media.

The board members review the case and gather information during the hearing about the programs the offender is participating in, the person’s behaviour in prison and his or her attitude. Areas of interest centre on the circumstances of the most recent offense, the overall pattern of the offender’s criminal history, self-improvement efforts and the release plan. The case management team, the offender’s assistant and the offender all provide input into the hearing. Using this information board members are able to assess the offender’s progress and attempt to predict how the offender will behave in the future. They assess the risk he or she presents to the community if released on parole. 

Observers are not allowed to say anything during the hearing or to ask any questions. They must sit quietly and listen. Taking notes is allowed but recording with audio or video equipment or taking photographs is not allowed. If the presence of the observers is distracting or disturbing, they will be asked to leave.

Surviving family members may read a statement about the long-term impact of the murder on their lives and their concerns about safety at the beginning or at the end of the hearing.


Following the interview, the offender and the observers leave the room and the board members have a discussion and make a decision about whether parole will be granted or not. Everyone is called back into the room and the decision of the board is made known. 

Quick Notes:

  • Parole is not granted automatically. It is a privilege not a right.

  • You can apply to attend a parole board hearing as an observer.

  • You might learn about the programs an offender is taking in prison by attending the parole board hearing.

  • You can make a statement orally at the parole board hearing.

  • Any letters or statements you send to the National Parole Board will be read by the offender and become part of his or her file.

Mennonite Central Committee Canada. (2011). Getting through the maze: A guidebook for survivors of homicide.

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