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

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