The PLEA: Mock Trials

The PLEA: Mock Trials

Mock Trial Profile: Understanding Parole

PLEA’s Understanding Parole is a different kind of mock trial. Understanding Parole examines parole, an often-misunderstood process in the criminal law arena. Parole is the release of a prisoner from prison before the expiry of the sentence.

The concept of parole recognizes that most offenders will eventually be released into the community. It is based on the philosophy that the best way to protect society is through the gradual release of offenders back into the community, under supervision and with conditions. This, it is believed, contributes to a safer society by helping offenders re-integrate into society as law abiding citizens.

Consider this: Statistics show that the vast majority of inmates released on full parole — around 80% — successfully completed their parole. About 15% had their parole revoked for technical violations. It is only around 5% who re-offended while on parole. Despite this tremendous success rate, the media tends to focus on the small minority who re-offend. Because of these misunderstandings of parole, it is important that students learn about the process and its results. The overwhelming majority of paroled offenders successfully re-enter society to live productive, crime-free lives.

Unlike other mock trial kits, Understanding Parole does not employ a traditional courtroom focus. Instead of a judge and jury there is a mock parole hearing, which is heard in front of a Parole Board.

Understanding Parole allows students to role-play so that they understand how the Parole Board works. It outlines the parole process, including the factors that the Board considers such as risk assessment, and specific considerations such as the individual’s behaviour in jail. The kit provides detailed background information, includes fact sheets for different offenders and compares and contrasts their cases, provides background information on the duties of Parole Board members, and outlines the step-by-step instructions for a mock parole hearing.

Like other mock trial kits, Understanding Parole requires students to engage in role-play, so appropriate scripts are provided. And much like other good mock trial kits, its lesson plans culminate in a debriefing activity, allowing students to consolidate and more deeply consider what was learned.

Understanding Parole gives a glimpse of the difficult decision-making process that goes on before any imprisoned offender is released on parole. Understanding Parole is most-suited for Law 30 and Social Studies 30 students, though some English A30 teachers have used it as a component of their study of More Joy in Heaven.

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