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Setting Aside Criminal Convictions in Canada: A Successful Approach to Offender Reintegration

NCJ Number
The Prison Journal Volume: 86 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2006 Pages: 452-469
Rick Ruddell; L. Thomas Winfree Jr.
Date Published
December 2006
18 pages
This study explored the use of pardons for criminal convictions in Canada.
The two main findings indicate that: (1) few individuals in Canada apply for a pardon despite the ease of the process, and (2) few applicants are denied pardons (1.5 percent out of 83,014 applicants) and less than 4 percent of pardoned individuals reoffend. The findings suggest that pursuing similar strategies in other countries may be beneficial to offender reintegration. Canada has routinely set aside criminal convictions since 1970 for persons with criminal records who apply to the National Parole Board (NPB) for a pardon. The pardon is granted to persons found guilty of a Federal offense who have satisfied their sentence and who have remained free of crime and have demonstrated successful conduct in the community for a specified period of time. Few applications are rejected and very few people are ineligible to apply for a pardon. The process of pardoning prior offenses and sealing the criminal record is considered an important part of offender community reintegration and is symbolic of public forgiveness. Data were obtained from the NPB’s Performance Monitoring Reports and from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The authors examined granted pardons that occurred between fiscal year 1996/1997 and fiscal year 2002/2003. The analysis focused on how criminal convictions were set aside, the prevalence of pardons in Canada, the rates of failure for persons granted pardons, and the characteristics of persons who were not granted pardons. Future research should review which States in the United States offer offenders the ability to apply to have their criminal records expunged. Figure, tables, notes, references


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