Criminal Sentences

When a person is found guilty of a criminal offence, the Court determines the appropriate sentence. Several types of sentences are available.  This blog post outlines the different types of sentences an adult may receive.

Alternative Measures

Alternative Measures is not technically a sentence, but it is a possible consequence for a person who accepts responsibility for a criminal offence.  It is typically only available for lesser crimes for people who have not had prior run ins with the criminal law.  Agreeing to go through Alternative measures is not the same as a guilty plea and cannot be used against you if you later decide to dispute the charge.

If everyone agrees to use Alternative Measures, the criminal matter is dealt with outside of the courtroom.  Often a person will take part in counselling or programming and will apologize or make reparations for their wrongdoing.  Once the requirements of Alternative Measures have been completed to the satisfaction of the Alternative Measures worker, the Crown Prosecutor withdraws the criminal charge and there will be no related criminal record.

Absolute Discharge

An Absolute Discharge is rarely given as a penalty for a criminal offence because it has no legal consequences. No criminal record and no legal penalties result from an Absolute Discharge.  However, a record of the Absolute Discharge will show up on a search of a criminal record up to a year after the date of sentencing.

A person who is charged with a minor crime, has no prior involvement in the criminal justice system, and who has acted significantly out of character may receive an Absolute Discharge.

Conditional Discharge

A Conditional Discharge involves the Court using a Probation Order to impose condition for a certain amount of time.  For example, Joe may receive a Conditional Discharge where his conditions require that he have no contact with Jane and must follow a curfew for 3 months.  If Joe follows the rules for the whole 3 months, the related conviction is removed from his criminal record.  However, a record of the Conditional Discharge will show up on a search of his criminal record for up to 3 years after the date of sentencing.  If Joe breaks the rules during the 3 months, he will be charged for a breach of his conditions and the related conviction will stay on his criminal record.

Before the Court will grant a Conditional Discharge, it must be satisfied that the discharge is in the best interests of the person charged and not contrary to the public interest.  Generally, a person will only receive a Conditional Discharge where he or she is charged with a minor crime and has no prior involvement with the criminal justice system.


Probation may be a sentence in addition to other types of sentences or may stand alone.  When Probation is used by itself, it is called a Suspended Sentence.  Like a Conditional Discharge, Probation involves court imposed conditions for a certain amount of time and any breach of these conditions will result in a new criminal charge.  Unlike a Conditional Discharge, a person who is sentenced to Probation will have a related conviction on their criminal record.

The primary purpose of Probation is rehabilitative and probationary conditions often include attending for personal counselling or addictions treatment.  Conditions restricting contact with other people, the use of alcohol or drugs and setting a curfew are also often imposed.

Conditional Sentence Order

Conditional Sentence Orders (CSOs) are jail sentences where the Court allows a person to serve the sentence in the community.  For example, Joe receives a 6 month CSO with the conditions that he not have any alcohol and cannot leave his home without permission.  If Joe breaches his conditions during the 6 months, he will be arrested and may have to spend any time remaining on his CSO in jail.

CSOs are not available as a sentence for many serious crimes and will generally not be given where the person being sentenced has shown an inability to follow court imposed conditions.  People who receive CSOs often have to serve more time than someone who receives an actual jail sentence, and there is no remission credit for loss of early parole.  For example, Joe may receive a 6 month CSO but would only receive a 4 month jail sentence for the same crime.

Custody Sentence

A Custody Sentence is a sentence served in jail.  A person may be imprisoned at a Provincial Correctional Centre or at a Federal Penitentiary depending on the length of the Custody Sentence.  If a person receives a sentence of 2 years less a day, he or she will be imprisoned at a Provincial Correctional Centre. If a person receives a sentence of 2 years or more, he or she will be imprisoned at a Federal Penitentiary. Generally, offenders only serve two thirds of their provincial sentence to give credit for a loss of early parole. This credit also alleviates overcrowding in Correctional Centres.

In Saskatchewan, all women are imprisoned at the Pine Grove Correctional Centre outside of Prince Albert.  The Federal Penitentiary for men is located in Prince Albert.  There are several Provincial Correctional Centres in this province.