John Howard Society of Canada - Our Mission: Effective, just and humane responses to the causes and consequences of crime.

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The John Howard Society of Canada

809 Blackburn Mews
Kingston, ON K7P 2N6

Tel: 613.384.6272
Fax: 613.384.1847

Executive Director:
Catherine Latimer

Improving the Corrections System:
John Howard Society’s 5-Point Plan

1. Respect the Presumption of Innocence

Canada is experiencing a crisis in bail and remand. Far too many prisoners (more than 50% in our provincial and territorial jails) have not been convicted or sentenced. This undermines the presumption of innocence in our country. Though it costs about $185 per day to keep a person in custody, the conditions of confinement in provincial and territorial remand facilities are some of the worst in the entire corrections system: crowded, violent, and lacking in essential services and programs. The presumption of innocence is also undermined by police record checks revealing non-conviction information about individuals that is damaging. Addressing the erosion of the presumption of innocence and the pre-trial detention crisis should include:

  1. Humane conditions in remand facilities
    • Reduce crowding, end violence, limit duration of stays, ensure access to medical service, respect human rights instruments
  2. Fewer people needlessly detained prior to trials through policies, programs, and legislative reform
    • Reduce numbers detained for breaching conditions but ensuring conditions are reasonable, reduce requirements for sureties, provide bail alternative programs
    • Clarify test, drop third ground for detention
  3. Reduction in loss of liberties for those not convicted of crimes
    • Limit use of police and other records reflecting contact with the justice system

(a) Objective/Standard

Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms: S. 11(e) guarantees right not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause; s. 7 guarantees right not to be denied life, liberty and security of the person except in accordance with principles of fundamental justice

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: Article 9: 3. Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgement.
4. Anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful.
5. Anyone who has been the victim of unlawful arrest or detention shall have an enforceable right to compensation.
Article 10: 1. All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.
2. (a) Accused persons shall, save in exceptional circumstances, be segregated from convicted persons and shall be subject to separate treatment appropriate to their status as unconvicted persons;

United Nations Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners:
8. (b) Untried prisoners shall be kept separate from convicted prisoners;
9. (1) Where sleeping accommodation is in individual cells or rooms, each prisoner shall occupy by night a cell or room by himself. If for special reasons, such as temporary overcrowding, it becomes necessary for the central prison administration to make an exception to this rule, it is not desirable to have two prisoners in a cell or room.
(2) Where dormitories are used, they shall be occupied by prisoners carefully selected as being suitable to associate with one another in those conditions. There shall be regular supervision by night, in keeping with the nature of the institution.
10. All accommodation provided for the use of prisoners and in particular all sleeping accommodation shall meet all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climatic conditions and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation.

(b) Evidence/Statistics/Reports

Canadian Civil Liberties Association Report “Set up to Fail”, July 2014 raises questions about the Charter compliance of bail practices in Canada: Read More

John Howard Society of Ontario recent Report “Reasonable Bail?” raises concerns about the practice of bail in Ontario: Read More

Statistics Canada, Lindsay Porter and Donna Calvery, Trends in the Use of Remand in Canada 2000/2001 to 2009/2010: Note: Administration of justice offences most common type of offence for which adults are remanded. In 2008/2009, in the five provinces that responded to the ICSS most admissions to remand were for non-violent offences (68%), the most common of which were failure to comply and breach of probation (See Chart 6). Read More

Canadian Civil Liberties Association Report on Non-conviction Records, 2012 Read More

Supeme Court of Canada's October 2014 judgement in R. v. Conception 2014 SCC 60 at paragraph 77 noted that mentally disordered patients did not fare well as inmates and often experience violence, neglect, and segregation.

[77] Mentally disordered patients do not typically fare well as inmates. They are frequently victims of intimidation and violence and are more likely than the general prison population to attempt suicide, self-harm, or self-destructive behaviour. An experienced correctional officer testified in this case that the mental health care needs of mentally ill accused persons in provincial jail are frequently neglected due to lack of special units and trained personnel. Fewer than one-third of Ontario provincial jails have special units for inmates with mental illness or developmental disability. Where there is no special unit, or where the unit is full, mentally ill accused persons are typically held in segregation cells.

(c) Commentary

Enright, Michael, Innocent until Proven Guilty – Except on Remand: comments on the remand crisis in Canada Read More

McCrank, Neil, et al, Changing Face of Corrections Task Force, 2009 -- noted practical problems of increasing number of remanded prisoners, including: 1) rising costs of transporting individuals to and from court; 2) crowding in facilities close to court ; 3) increasing security concerns associated with managing anxious prisoners still facing possible convictions and sentences; 4) increasing fiscal pressues associated with new facilities with each additional bed costing as much as $ 300,000; and 5) limited programming (ibid., 16-17). The task force also referred to the moral implications for the administration of justice and civil society of having more remanded than sentenced prisoners in provincial and territorial prisons on a given day (ibid., 13).

Latimer, Catherine Foreward to Mark Stobbe’s Lessons from Remand commenting on crisis in remand Read More

Piché, Justin, A Contradictory and Finishing State: Explaining Recent Prison Capacity Expansion in Canada’s Provinces and Territories, vol. xi, Champ Penal 2014 – demonstrates that prison expansion in provinces and territories is being driven by increasing numbers and crowding in remand facilities Read More

Inmate dies of diabetic ketoacidosis – June 29, 2014 The Province: Read More

(d) Promising Programs/Approaches

Successful bail alternative programs in Ontario: Read More

(e) Options for Reforms

CCLA’s Key findings and recommendations from “Set up to Fail”: Read More

John Howard Society of Ontario’s Reasonable Bail?: Read More

McCrank, Changing Face of Corrections Task Force, 2009 – recognized increasing numbers in remand was beyond the control of the correctional services and urged broad reforms to reduce the number of individuals awaiting bail decisions, trial, and sentencing in detention:

B.C. Coroner’s Finding and Recommendations re death of inmate from diabetic ketoacidosis – June 27, 2014: Early assessment and better medical care for detainees: Read More

(f) Recommendations

To be developed