“Double and Triple Credit for Time Served Is Not Deserved”
According to his lawyer, while Henry Danninger was out on bail awaiting his trial for the fatal stabbing of engineering student and Good Samaritan Andy Moffitt, it was “stress” that prompted him to dump urine and feces on his neighbours’ car every night.
When Danninger was sentenced for manslaughter, an Ontario judge gave him DOUBLE credit for the time he was out terrorizing his neighbours and for the time he spent in pre-trial custody. His eight-year sentence was reduced to five and he was eligible for day parole in just over a year.
While awaiting trial and sentencing for heroin trafficking, Nicholas Chan was repeatedly denied a vegetarian meal, had access to only three board games and could only speak to his family through a glass partition. This “exceptionally hard time that Chan experienced”, according to the Alberta judge that sentenced him upon conviction, meant he deserved TRIPLE credit, leaving him less than a year to serve on a seven-and-a-half year sentence.
The granting of 2-for-1 credit and even triple credit for the “dead time” that offenders spend in detention centres awaiting their trial and sentencing has become standard practise by Canadian judges.
The basis for this measure is that criminals “deserve” extra credit for having to serve in pre-trial facilities that are sometimes overcrowded and do not offer offenders the amenities and programs they could access at penitentiaries.
Yet take the case of an offender considered too violent or too great a risk to society to be released on bail, such as gang members currently terrorizing parts of British Columbia. Ironically, such offenders will eventually be “rewarded” for their status as a threat by being given extra credit for the time they were forced to remain in pre-trial detention just to keep their community safe!
Last week, on behalf of my colleague Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, I introduced in the House of Commons legislation to restrict the use of “credit for time served”. Bill C-25 will cap the credit convicts receive for pre-sentencing custody at a one-to-one ratio. Under very limited circumstances, judges could use a 1.5 to 1 credit but only after justifying it with a written explanation.
Provincial and territorial governments, law enforcement officers and community advocates have been calling on the federal government to end “credit for time served” as defendants, especially repeat criminals and gang members, have learned to manipulate the court system with procedural delays and other tactics. This allows them to intentionally build up their “dead time” in pre-trial facilities, thereby shortening their penitentiary sentences and their total time in jail.
Supporters of the measure argue it’s a matter of ‘fairness’ for offenders because they can’t access rehabilitation and other programs in pre-trial facilities. Yet convicts’ access to rehabilitation programs is further restricted when their penitentiary sentences are cut and, in some cases, eliminated through credit for time served.
Our Government and the Correctional Service of Canada will continue to monitor any extra costs or added strain on prison capacities associated with this reform. Truth-in-Sentencing is just one more action our Conservative Government is taking to reform our justice system.
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