Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Bail System Set Up to Punish Innocent People with Pretrial Detention: Report

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Bail System Set Up to Punish Innocent People with Pretrial Detention: Report

Article excerpt

Canada's bail system criticized in new report


TORONTO - The overuse of pretrial detention in Canada's bail system is punishing innocent people, slowing the judicial process, and costing unnecessary tax dollars, according to a report by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association released Wednesday.

Report co-author Abby Deshman said Canadians spend more than $850 million on pretrial detention even though most of those arrested are facing non-violent and minor charges.

"There is a presumption of innocence that we base our justice system on," she said. "We don't think it's being reflected in our bail courts."

The study, entitled "Set Up to Fail: Bail and the Revolving Door of Pretrial Detention," found the use of pretrial custody has risen nearly 300 per cent over the last three decades. During the same time, crime rates have declined, with 2012 recorded as the safest year since 1972.

On an average day in 2012-13, more than 25,000 people were incarcerated in provincial and territorial jails. Of those, about 55 per cent were awaiting trial or bail hearing -- a higher number than convicted and sentenced offenders.

The personal, societal and financial costs associated with pretrial custody are "overwhelming," Deshman said.

"They are generally given no warning that they are being put in pretrial detention," she said, adding this can result in loss of income, housing problems and a need for emergency child care among other things.

"Even a short stay in detention without warning can be incredibly disruptive."

The report found it costs about $170 a day to keep someone in pretrial detention, compared to $5 per day to supervise someone in the community.

Manitoba had the most people in pretrial detention, with 66 per cent of its jail population waiting for trial or bail hearing.

Corey Shefman, with the Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties, said the province is setting people up to fail because of its zero-tolerance policy for breaches of bail conditions. …

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