Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tories Want an End to Pre-Trial Sentencing Credits

Tories want to kill 'two-for-one' prison-time credit

CTV News has learned that the government plans to introduce legislation on Thursday to end the "two-for-one" credit for convicted felons for time spent in pre-trial custody.

The credit aims to compensate for so-called "dead time" spent in overcrowded detention centres that do not have rehabilitation programs or many of the amenities of long-term prison housing.

But critics argue that some prisoners are abusing the system by trying to stretch their pre-trial time to cut their time behind bars later.

And... wait for it...


Yes, there'll be skating in Hades and pigshit umbrellas for everyone: I actually agree with something Stephen Harper is doing. And on a law and order issue, no less.

I've always believed that most of the sentences given to violent offenders are actually completely appropriate, but that these credits reduce them to ridiculously short periods, leading in turn to public outrage and calls for "tougher sentencing".

Only a couple of hairs in this one:

a) Since these credits were never legislated in the first place - only entrenched through legal precedent - I'm not sure how they are going to legislate them out of existence, and

b) This should be done instead of mandatory minimum sentencing legislation, not in addition to.

I'm sure the Conservatives will find other ways to screw this one up. Stay tuned.


  1. People are given double credit for pre-trial time spent behind bars because in many ways institutions that house them before trial are inadequate for for the task. Many have no access to the outside or any other form of exercise for example. It is also meant to encourage the crown to proceed to trial in a timely fashion. You are right that it is prisoners themselves who often delay their own trials in order to get double time and this should be addressed but not in this manner. Whether we like it or not inmates have some rights and you can bet their lawyers will be demanding that they should be afforded the same rights as those who have already been convicted at the very least. Unless we're ready to start building a bunch of new prisons we should try a different approach.

  2. This also means we will need to build more prisons; or, Crowns will drop even more charges as they more drastically triage due to even more limited prison space.

    Forty per cent of charges laid in Ontario are dropped by the Crown. This is a very high rate.

    This is good politics, not good policy.

    The money to be spent on prisons is better spent on more crowns, police, and judges.

    Oh, wait... that's mostly provincial budget costs. Which means thta the fallout from this new policy, if passed, will hit provincial budgets.

  3. I read this article:
    a few days ago and it made me sad and angry. The tack we are on in criminal justice is similar to what has produced horror in the United States. There is a reason for the sentencing credits - directly related to the increased hard-line attitude (if you do the crime you should do the time). It has not worked in the U.S., it has not worked in China, it didn't work in the nineteenth century in Canada, why should it work now?
    The jails are full. Don't build new ones, empty them out - find ways to give indigent prisoners bail, trust more (but verify) and get more people out on bail so jail time for those who must be held is not cruel and unusual punishment.

  4. Without getting into anything else, there is no correlation between time served and preventing recidivism. In fact, the most recent research suggests there's an inverse relationship.

  5. I'm not suggesting there is. I'm suggesting that 2-for-1 credits give the public the perception that criminals aren't getting enough time, and lead to demands for truly useless bullshit like mandatory minimums.

    Two-for-one only papers over the real problems with the justice system: under-staffing, inadequate facilities, inequity in the bail system. Ripping off the band-aid would expose those problems and hopefully lead to real solutions.