A Blow to the Bail Program

In yet another example of ‘tough-on-crime’ trumping ‘smart-on-crime’, despite millions of additional dollars required to manage the increased custodial times for offenders on the many new mandatory minimum sentences, apparently no money could be found to save the venerable Toronto Bail Program.

It has recently been announced that, effective Mar. 29, the Toronto Bail Program will no longer staff courts on Sundays and statutory holidays.  For those unfamiliar with the thankless job of this institution, the bail program was established to provide supervision while on bail for those who have no external sureties available to them. Their clientele is overwhelmingly poor and disadvantaged often benefiting tremendously from the Bail Program’s efforts to secure emergency shelter housing, or access to other community-service resources such as medical assessments and employment counselling. Without Bail Program workers putting together release plans for accused persons who have no eligible family or friends, countless people who are otherwise strong candidates for release, will spend additional time in jail. It should be noted that the effect of such a cut-back will mean people who are PRESUMED INNOCENT will spend extra time in jail (at tremendous public expense) rather than being released to a supervising agency that can help them get back on their feet.

In an e-mail distributed to Duty Counsel lawyers (another thankless office that rarely garners the kudos it deserves) the Bail Program made the announcement citing increased costs of operation with no concomitant funding increase since 2006.  Blessedly, for the time being at least, the cutbacks only affect Sunday and holiday courts but our system of justice should be embarrassed by this shameful collapse of an important public service.

I’m happy to report that only a day after this blog post, the good folks at the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General in conjunction with the Toronto Bail Program were able to find the funds necessary to keep the bail program running 7 days a week, 365 days per year.

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