Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mr. Swan languishes on jails

  • Print

The crowding in provincial jails is a historical problem. It has been driven not by a rise in crime or longer sentences, but by the burgeoning number of adults held in pretrial custody.

In 2009, Statistics Canada found, 69 per cent of Manitoba adults in custody were on remand. Some of that proportional rise -- seen across Canada, but more so here -- is due to fewer adults sentenced to jail time, but it is heavily driven by increasing numbers of those charged held in custody before trial. The time spent in remand detention has lengthened, as well. Dealing with the remand problem could solve the overcrowding of Manitoba's jails.

Manitoba has 1,492 beds in its adult jails, but the average daily "bed count" last year was 2,214. Six of the jails were built for sentenced adults, but the number on remand alone would have exceeded the capacity of all seven jails on any given day.

In Canada, 70 per cent of people in detention on remand are there for non-violent charges, chiefly for breach of probation or conditions of release. Police data in 2005 showed a 40 per cent increase in bail-order violations in the last 10 years. What is driving the breaches? More data is required, but Statistics Canada has found some 90 per cent of inmates being held on remand were substance abusers; abstention from alcohol or drugs is a typical condition of release. Similarly, in 2009-10, more Canadian youth were in pretrial detention than in sentenced custody, but the rates of incarceration for both fell in recent years.

Manitoba stands out in Canada for having the highest increase in remand rates, but the Justice department has no good overview of who is there and why, or how long they have been awaiting trial.

It is quickly accepted that tougher laws being passed by Ottawa will drive the jail populations up in Canada and Justice Minister Andrew Swan, who lobbied Ottawa hard for harsher sentences, is joining provincial counterparts to demand more federal cash to pay for the pressure on courts and jails from the Criminal Code amendments.

Mr. Swan knows why Manitoba's jails are crowded. But fixing that can't be done without a good idea of why so many people are landing in detention -- an expensive option to keeping them in the community before trial. Before attacking a problem that might arise from harsher laws, Mr. Swan should address the one that has been sitting under his nose for years.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 8, 2012 A10

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Cheapskate: Home buying

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A gosling stares near water at Omands Creek Park-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 25– June 21, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Aerial view of Portage and Main, The Esplanade Riel, Provencher Bridge over the Red River, The Canadian Museum for Human Rights and The Forks near the Assiniboine River, October 21st, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) CMHR

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should the federal government be able to censor how Ottawa is portrayed in the CMHR?

View Results

Ads by Google