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More than half of Canadian adults in jail awaiting trial rather than serving sentences in 2014 and 2015: StatsCan
For over a decade, jails across Canada have held more adults awaiting trial than convicted offenders serving sentences — even as the number of adults charged with a crime declined, according to a new Statistics Canada report.
Between 2014 and 2015, an average of 24,014 adults were in a provincial or territorial correctional facility on any given day; well over half — 57 per cent of them (13,650) — were in remand, which means they were being held prior to their trial or before they were found guilty.
"It's really becoming quite a critical situation," said Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society, a national organization that advocates for reform to Canada's criminal justice system.
"Effectively, people who are at law presumed innocent are being placed behind bars and having their liberties denied before they're convicted of any sort of crime."
The John Howard Society has been raising awareness about the "remand crisis" for years. In 2005, its Ontario branch published a report warning the average daily pre-trial prison population in the province had more than doubled since 1991.
The number of adults held in pre-trial custody across Canada has exceeded the number of convicted prisoners since 2004/05, when 51 per cent of the custodial population had not been sentenced, StatsCan said. Over the next 10 years, the average number of adults held in remand increased by 39 per cent — nearly six times the seven per cent increase in the number of convicted offenders. The number of adults charged by police declined by 2.4 per cent over the same period.
Every province and territory had a larger remand population in 2014/2015 than it did 10 years earlier, StatsCan found. The growth ranged from two per cent in Prince Edward Island to 192 per cent in Nova Scotia.