Tbnewswatch Local News
2014-03-11 at 2:57PM

The cost of custody

The Thunder Bay District jail houses those in remand
Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com
The Thunder Bay District jail houses those in remand
By Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com

Being remanded can cost a person a lot more than legal fees.

Around 66 per cent of the province's 70,000 prisoners are in remand - the state of being held in custody during court proceedings - on any given day.

"They're incarcerated but not sentenced," said John Howard Society residential services manager Colleen Peters.

And 68 per cent of those people are non-violent offenders.

Peters said there are a lot of factors as to why a person might not be released while going through the criminal justice system, but a lot of it comes down to poverty.

"So if the person doesn't necessarily have the financial means or the social connections or even a suitable safe place to reside at they can be detained versus being released," she said.

The remanded population is housed in prisons for months and sometimes even years. No one knows when they'll be released. Maximum security prisons also means they face overcrowding, isolation and a person doesn't have access to services or opportunities that convicted prisoners have such as outdoor time or visitation guaranteed.

It's an archaic system that doesn't meet the needs of the person or the public at large Peters said. Even worse, in the system a person could lose their home, their job and even their children while they wait.

"There's a lot of unintended consequences that happen for someone who is on remand," she said.

The remand system was highlighted during the John Howard Society's Community Lunch and Learn Counterpoint session Tuesday afternoon. It's a chance for the general public to learn about different parts of the criminal justice system and dispel some myths.

"People have the power to make changes," Peters said.


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