A conditional sentence is a specific form of non-custodial punishment for a crime. Canada is the only jurisdiction that assigns its residents conditional sentences.
In Canada, conditional sentences developed and were first introduced in 1995, as a response to perceived over incarceration rates, which were especially bothersome among aboriginal populations in the country.
Most often, a conditional sentence is assigned for property crimes. Under Canadian law, a conditional sentence cannot be more than one year and 364 days. The average term of a conditional sentence is eight months. Furthermore, Canadian law dictates that a conditional sentence cannot be assigned if the offense for which the conviction was handed down can be punished by a minimum sentence of imprisonment.
A conditional sentence usually involves treatments for drug or alcohol abuse, curfews, and community service requirements. In the event the terms of the conditional sentence are violated, the remainder of the conditional sentence must be completed in prison.
The conditional sentencing program in the country is not without controversy. A conditional sentence that requires the individual to serve the sentence in a secure psychiatric hospital may be more severe, since a sentence in a hospital will not allow an individual to apply for early release. Other controversies surrounding a conditional sentence is that in Saskatchewan in 2008, almost 40 percent of criminals sentenced to house arrest under conditional sentences were sent to jail for violating the term of their conditional sentence. In addition, conditional sentences are sometimes granted conditional sentences for crimes of violence such as homicide or sexual assaults.