Pubdate: Wed, 01 Nov 2017
Source: Metro (Vancouver, CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Metro Canada
Author: Wanyee Li
Page: 3


Conditions can push people to commit crimes: Study

Releasing people on bail on the condition they do not go to the
Downtown Eastside sets them up for failure, according to research from
three Canadian universities.

Judges often order people on bail to avoid certain "no-go zones" or
"red zones" in an effort to prevent them from committing crimes. But
it, in fact, does the exact opposite, says SFU geography professor
Nicholas Blomley.

"These are people who have yet to be found guilty of an offence," he

"You're setting people up to fail and fail in ways that are harmful to
them as well. A drug user can't access a safe injection site, for
example, or a sex trade worker who now has to go somewhere even more
dangerous than where he or she was already working."

The vast majority of people charged with drug offences and released on
bail with conditions - 92 per cent - were required to stay away from
the Downtown Eastside, according to the study, which looked at court
records from 1982 to 2012.

Blomley and other researchers from University of Ottawa and University
of Montreal interviewed people who had been subjected to red-zone bail
conditions and found many violated them because that's where they
could access food, family, and housing.

"So now, (they) have committed an offence," he said.

Violating a bail condition is considered a crime against the
administration of justice, which means people caught in 'red zones'
can then be put back in jail until their court date. But this practice
has resulted in jails being filled with more people awaiting trial
than people who have actually be found guilty, said Blomley. In fact,
57 per cent of adults in provincial prisons are in pre-trial
detention, according to the study.

Blomley and other experts call the phenomenon "a revolving door,"
where the justice system keeps people cycling in and out of jail.

Imposing 'red zones' as a bail condition also ties up valuable court
time - "40% of all criminal cases in B.C. included an offence against
the administration of justice, with failure to comply with a bail
order and breach of probation being the top ranked offences," the
study states.

Blomley says these problems would be solved if judges simply stuck to
what the Criminal Code mandates, which is that if a person is deemed
eligible for bail, they should be released "unconditionally and on the
least onerous grounds."

Instead, bail conditions are applied in 97 per cent of cases,
according to the study.

Blomley says judges should stay away from imposing 'red zone'
conditions and instead favour harm-reduction strategies.

Law professor Marie-Eve Sylvestre from the University of Ottawa was
the lead author of the study, titled, Red Zones and other Spatial
Conditions of Release Imposed on Marginalized People in Vancouver.
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