Five things about crime and doing the time in Canada
NationalPost.com – news
Dec 3, 2011. Sarah Boesveld
The Post’s Sarah Boesveld lists five things you should know about the Statistics Canada Report on Cases in Adult Court by Province 2009-10:
1. Cases on the decline
Canada’s courts heard far fewer criminal cases during the period of 2009-10 than the year prior, dropping to 262,616 criminal cases from the 392,907 disposed of by judges in the 2008-09 period. The number of cases was almost the same the year before that, but about 3% higher than in 2006-07. Before that, criminal court case loads had been dropping for four years.
2. Guilty as charged
Of the 262,616 cases put before the courts in 2009-10, 183,204 of the defendants were deemed guilty under the Criminal Code. Of that figure, 71,417 were sent to prison, 100,956 were put on probation, 8,281 received a conditional sentence, 6,699 were ordered to pay restitution, 28,757 were fined and 88,019 received some other kind of sentence.
3. Some provinces are harsher on drunk drivers
Prison time for some crimes varies according to province. Prince Edward Island, for example, has long had the highest rate of incarceration in general, with a special interest in locking up drunk drivers. Judges threw the book at 94% of people who were found guilty of impaired driving in 2009-10, the report shows, whereas British Columbia sent only 3% of drunk drivers to prison in the same period, below the national average of 9%.
4. Screening affects incarceration
Provinces such as B.C. and Quebec weed out offenders deemed to have committed less serious crimes before charges are even laid, said Anthony Doob, a professor of criminology at the University of Toronto. Ontario is also doing a lot more screening of cases to see if some can be handled out of court. “The ones that go forward in a jurisdiction that screens out a lot of cases tend to be more likely to have a prison sentence associated with them,” he said. “The ones where there’s no screening, they’re going to have all these minor offences and they’re going to look like they’re lenient, when in fact they’re more harsh because they’re bringing more people to court.” This could colour the statistics, such as the disparities seen in jail time for sexual assault and drug possession.
5. Pre-trial custody time doesn’t count in sentence
Not in the available data, anyway, although that time served will be recorded from 2010-11 henceforth. Ontario’s prisons are made up of approximately 68% of people who have not been found guilty of a crime, says Prof. Doob. Nationwide, it’s closer to 40%. When a sentence is handed down, prisoners are supposed to get credit for the amount of time they served during the pre-trial period. That can make a difference in statistics if someone is charged with unwanted sexual touching, for example, serves two months in jail, then is sentenced to two months. They would be set free.
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