City lawyers say killing two-for-one jail credit makes for a bad bargain

Proposed legislation to abolish two-for-one credit often given convicted criminals for time spent in pre-trial custody is “draconian” and won’t help solve crime, Red Deer lawyers say.

Patty MacNaughton

Proposed legislation to abolish two-for-one credit often given convicted criminals for time spent in pre-trial custody is “draconian” and won’t help solve crime, Red Deer lawyers say.

The Conservative government hoped to introduce the legislation today in Parliament and has support from the Opposition Liberals and guarded support from the NDP.

“I think the (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper government’s criminal justice reforms are draconian and is setting it back instead of forward,” lawyer Patty MacNaughton said on Thursday.

Michael Scrase, another local lawyer, said the Conservatives are just being “punitive and not coming up with ways to help solve crime.”

Jim Dixon, a veteran Lacombe lawyer, said the government should formulate ideas to help rehabilitate criminals instead of finding ways to further punish them.

The main justification for giving double credit for pre-trial detention has been that it compensates inmates for so-called “dead time” spent in overcrowded detention centres that lack proper rehabilitation programs.

MacNaughton said everyone should remember that people charged with a crime are innocent until proven guilty.

She is currently defending people accused in two high-profile Central Alberta crimes, which include charges of kidnapping, sexual assault and first-degree murder.

Those suspects face a year or more in remand before their cases come to trial.

She said some people spend months in pre-trial custody because they can’t get or afford bail and must wait for trials in a crowded system.

In Red Deer, wait times for trials that will take a day or more have ballooned to eight or nine months, Scrase said. Just a few years ago, the wait was half that.

The Alberta system is chronically short of provincial court judges and sees trials in Calgary and Edmonton set more than a year down the road.

MacNaughton fears some people may plead guilty to avoid long delays in waiting for a trial.

“Often some people will have a legitimate defence to argue at trial,” she added.

Scrase said the Tory proposal is “outrageous.”

He said people should receive credit for time served when they are housed with one or two other people in cells built for one.

MacNaughton said there’s virtually nothing for people in remand centres to do. “There’s no programs to take like in a federal jail, where there’s numerous programs and services.”

Dixon said the government needs to spend more time thinking of ways to rehabilitate inmates and turn them out as productive members of society.

He said the flexibility aspect of parole and the granting of incentives to accused or convicted people is diminished by removing credits.

Critics argue the concept of two-for-one has been abused by some prisoners who try to prolong pre-trial custody to reduce their overall period behind bars.

The Criminal Code doesn’t spell out the ratio but the vast majority of judges accept it as a rule of thumb.

Just Posted

Despite warnings, plenty of temptations to thieves left in vehicles

Lock It or Lose It campaign still finding plenty of valuables left in plain sight

WATCH: Notley invites central Albertans to “team up” with New Democrats for equitable, prosperous future

NDP leader lashes out against her rival, Jason Kenney, calling him a cheater

Red Deer sees highest rate of fentanyl deaths

47 fentanyl-related deaths in 2018

Why Solar: Canada needs to get its collective house in order

Canada needs to get a grip. The country has one of the… Continue reading

Gardening: Take care when making plant purchases

After a cold February, the longer sunny days and warmer weather triggers… Continue reading

Canadian pair fifth after short program at figure skating worlds

SAITAMA, Japan — Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro are fifth after… Continue reading

Director Kim Nguyen tackles financial ‘madness’ in ‘The Hummingbird Project’

TORONTO — As Quebec filmmaker Kim Nguyen tells it, “The Hummingbird Project”… Continue reading

What Disney gets as its $71.3B buy of Fox assets closes

It’s finally complete. Disney closed its $71 billion acquisition of Fox’s entertainment… Continue reading

Opinion: Let’s be heard ‘loud and clear’ during provincial election campaign

By David Marsden During the banquet for Sunday’s Boston Bruins alumni game,… Continue reading

Documentary on Colten Boushie case to open Toronto’s Hot Docs festival

TORONTO — A film examining the case of a young Indigenous man… Continue reading

Most Read