Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Canada's Broken Bail System Penalizes the Most Vulnerable

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Canada's Broken Bail System Penalizes the Most Vulnerable

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Canada's broken bail system penalizes the most vulnerable

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published July 28:

Common sense would suggest that we operate prisons to house the guilty. An eye-opening new report from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, however, shows a very different situation: on a typical day, more than half (54.5 per cent, to be precise) of the 25,000 people in Canada's provincial jails aren't guilty of anything. Instead, they are being detained while awaiting trial or for their bail conditions to be set.

This is enormously inefficient and expensive. In Ontario, according to the association's study, it costs an average of $183 a day to keep someone in jail - enough to put them up in a pretty nice hotel. Overall, the province spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year to house prisoners, and most haven't even been convicted.

More importantly, this broken system is unjust. As the association concludes: "Legally innocent individuals are processed through a bail system that is chaotic and unnecessarily risk-averse and that disproportionately penalizes - and frequently criminalizes - poverty, addiction and mental illness."

The irony is that more people are being detained at great public expense even as crime rates fall to record lows. Just last week, Statistics Canada reported that the Crime Severity Index, which measures both the frequency and severity of criminal acts, fell in 2013 for the 10th consecutive year. The national crime rate is at its lowest level since 1969.

Not surprisingly, the number of people convicted of crimes has also fallen - yet more and more people who haven't been found guilty of anything are being kept behind bars.

The reason involves a bail system in which, among other things, courts too often impose "numerous and restrictive conditions" for release that set offenders up to fail. …

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