The Evolution of Life Sentences For Second-Degree Murder: Parole Ineligibility and Time Spent in Prison

Research output: Working paper


Canada's murder sentencing regime has been in effect since 1976, and yet very little data has examined what these sentences actually mean for those convicted. This paper begins to fill this gap by examining the meaning of a life sentence for those convicted of second degree murder in Canada. Using data provided by the Correctional Investigator, we examine both the parole ineligibility periods imposed by sentencing judges, and how long people are serving before a grant of full parole over time from 1977 to 2020. We found statistically significant increases over time in both judicial parole ineligibility periods, and in how long people are serving beyond their first full parole eligibility date. We also found that Indigenous persons are more likely to serve longer periods of time past their parole ineligibility date. We conclude that, at every point in the process, sentencing for murder has become increasingly harsh over time with no obvious public safety rationale for this increase.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2022

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