Community-Based Sanctions

AuthorDawn North
Community-Based Sanctions
Dawn North*
Penal policy can both reect and inuence social values; either way it is
clear that our views on sentencing in Canada have evolved. We no longer
allow capital or corporal punishment, nor does the law permit hard labour
as a condition of connement. Our current sentencing policies frame
incarceration as a sanction of last resort and, in most cases, explicitly dir-
ect judges to consider the use of alternatives to imprisonment. Notwith-
standing these developments, nearly four out of ten adults sentenced
in – received an institutional disposition, many of which were
relatively short sentences imposed for non-violent oences. For those
* My thanks to Tony Doob and Cheryl Webster for comments on an earlier draft.
Criminal Code, RSC , c C-, s .(e) [Criminal Code].
In –, the median institutional sentence for adults was thirty days; see Zoran
Miladinovic, “Adult Criminal and Youth Court Statistics in Canada, /” Juristat,
Statistics Canada Catalogue no -–X ( January ), online: www.statcan./pub/--x//article/-eng.htm. In an analysis of single-
charge sentences, Marinos estimated that almost half (%) of prison sentences of
thirty days or less involved administration of justice oences (e.g., failing to comply
with a bail or probation order). Voula Marinos, “The Meaning of ‘Short’ Sentences of
Imprisonment and Oences Against the Administration of Justice: A Perspective from
the Court” ()  Canadian Journal of Law & Society  at .
Community-Based Sanctions | 49
interested in expanding the use of community-based options, this sug-
gests there may be room to grow.
Community-based sanctions provide exibility but can also intro-
duce theoretical, operational, and normative challenges. How do we
balance the concepts of punishment with rehabilitation or restoration,
especially when dealing with disadvantaged, marginalized, or Indigen-
ous oenders? How should we deal with otherwise law-abiding oend-
ers who have committed serious oences? How should we respond to
chronic petty oenders who repeatedly fail to comply with conditions
attached to community-based orders? In the context of sentencing,
what does “justice” look like?
Any eort to answer these questions must surely start with the rec-
ognition that while headlines tend to focus on serious violent crimes,
most sentencing decisions relate to summary matters, and many oend-
ers come from social environments characterized by poverty, home-
lessness, substance abuse, or mental illness. Contemporary Canadian
sentencing practice operates increasingly within a framework that goes
beyond the codied principles of proportionality, parity, and restraint,
particularly given the Supreme Court of Canada’s continuing direction
to sentencing judges that they are to consider notions of “individual-
ized proportionality” (see Chapter ).
is chapter will discuss community-based sanctions within these
contexts. In doing so, it will () explore the historical development of
non-institutional sanctions; () review existing sentencing options; ()
discuss theoretical and operational challenges to the use of community-
See, for instance, Julian V Roberts & David P Cole, eds, Making Sense of Sentencing
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, ) ch  [Roberts & Cole, Making Sense of
Speaking of his experiences on the Ontario Court of Justice, one judge (now on the
Ontario Court of Appeal) said: “I see these people in their worst moments, sometimes
shackled, but always bowed and humiliated and hurting. Often sick, always in need. It is
impossible not to be aected by this. One would have to be blind not to see the divers-
ity of our communities, and heartless not to crave solutions to inequality and excessive
use of the criminal law.” Canada, Department of Justice, “The Honourable Justice David
M. Paciocco’s Questionnaire [for Judicial Appointment],” online:

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