Not convicted, but in jail anyway -

Not convicted, but in jail anyway

Who’s hurt by new federal sentencing rules?


A federal government study shows that people accused of crime are likely to spend a lot more time in jail awaiting trial in Winnipeg and Whitehorse than in Toronto and Vancouver. The Justice department collected court data over three months in 2008 in six cities—Vancouver, Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax—finding that in Winnipeg, for example, the average time served “in remand” was 120 days compared with 17 days in Toronto. Who languishes behind bars while awaiting trial? “They’re poorer, economically, socially, and for various reasons they are less able to advocate for themselves,” said Craig Jones of the John Howard Society, adding many cannot afford to pay bail. “So they end up spending more time in remand.” The study was cited in a secret memorandum to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet, but was not made public back when MPs were debating legislation—which became law early this year—to ban the formerly common practice of judges cutting two days off a conviction criminal’s sentence for every one day spent locked up before trial. The Conservatives argued that such 2-for-1 crediting coddled criminals. Those who supported the practice said it recognized the hardship and inequity of pre-trial incarceration.

Winnipeg Free Press

Filed under:

Not convicted, but in jail anyway

  1. Those who supported the practice said it recognized the hardship and inequity of pre-trial incarceration.

    But it did absolutely nothing useful for those ultimately found not guilty. How do you extra-credit someone for "time served" when there was no time to serve anyways?

    One way to sharpen the focus: Money. If you are found not guilty, or if charges are withdrawn, you get a certain amount per 24 hours behind bars in pre-trial time (above, say, seven days). That $ can come out of the prosecutor's budget. That'll let the prosecutors be better judges of their own case even before it gets to trial. Cases likely to be lost don't even get to trial in the first place. Slam dunks do.

    There will certainly need to be refinements on the above. But some mechanism to compensate the not-guilty for their trouble is warranted; and far more justifiable than compensating the guilty. The 2-for-1 credit system encourages the guilty to drag out the process to gobble up their eventual sentence. My suggestion would make a bigger difference to those found not guilty, and, hopefully, the case load.

    • Fantastic idea!

    • Good concept, but then I worry about the prosecutor's budget lowering to the point where he won't send more cases to trial due to budget constraints not allowing him to strengthen his case (but then I watch Law and Order and the Canadian real world might work so much differently that its a moot point)

      How about we increase the fines the guilty have to pay to the Victim's Fund, and consider those charged, remanded and ultimately acquited a victim?

      1. Innocent people shouldn't spend time in jail.
      2. Guilty people should be prosecuted.
      3. Our children shouldn't have to pay for our justice.

      Any system that keeps those principles top of mind is worth looking at.

      • I thought everyone was presumed innocent until proven guilty? If so…how does 1) and 2) work?

        No doubt shrewd lawyers of clients they know are likely to do time were stringing out the case as long as possible to cash in on this sweet 2 for 1 deal. It was a loophole that needed closing.

        I think in general we need to find ways to speed up the entire system so that people don't sit awaiting trial for so long and victims don't sit and wait years for justice.