THE DEMOCRATIC REPORTER
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Opening comments: More at the end.
We all knew that justice had to be bought in Canada but here is proof the police go after the poor as they are easier targets for them to arrest and fill the jails with. No doubt it makes it look like they are doing their job.
And we can be sure that things have not radically changed since the report has been filed. I certainly know so!
T-Star May 16/2000 - By VALERIE LAWTON OTTAWA BUREAU - With files from Canadian Press
Justice failing the poor: Report
System accused of discriminating from start to finish
OTTAWA - Poor people are far more likely than others to have the book thrown at them, says a scathing new report on Canada's justice system.
"What we found is a system of justice that discriminates against the Poor from the beginning to the finish," John Murphy, chairperson of the National Council of Welfare, said yesterday.
"Too many poor people are picked up and "charged by the police. Too many poor people are denied bail. "Too many poor people get convicted because they can't afford a lawyer."
The council, a citizen's advisory group to the federal government, released its 155-page report, called Justice and the Poor, yesterday.
Problems begin because Police devote much of their energy to keeping an eye on poor people, the council said. "People from all levels of society commit crimes, but crime enforcement resources are heavily concentrated on the close surveillance of young men in low-income neighbourhoods," the report says.
"Not surprisingly, the resulting crop of suspects picked up and charged by the police do not reflect the distribution of crime so much as the distribution of poverty in our society."
David Griffin, executive officer with the Canadian Police Association, called that suggestion "preposterous." Police go where they're most frequently called by crime victim, he said.
The poor are most often linked with crime and the justice system treats rich people differently, but that observation is no new, Griffin added.
The study describes how lower-income Canadians continue to be disadvantaged as their cases wind through the justice system.
"By the sentencing stage, almost all those who remain before the courts are from low-income backgrounds," it concludes.
Scathing report calls system “an abysmal failure”
Among the problems the study outlines:
* Bail hearings are like cattle drives, where people are herded through.
* Getting bail is far tougher for homeless people.
* There are "huge disparities" in sentencing across the country, and the disadvantaged face harsher penalties.
* Although there's no evidence poor young people commit more crimes, most young people arrested are from low-income backgrounds.
* Fines have become a popular punishment, but thousands of poor can't afford to pay them and end up in jail.
The report says the justice system is "an abysmal failure" that discriminates against the poor while apprenticing future crooks. "We arrest thousands of low-income young men and lock them up with experienced criminals who give them advanced lessons in crime," it says.
Justice Minister Anne McLellan said yesterday Ottawa is already taking steps to try to address the fact that disadvantaged groups, such as aboriginals, are over-represented in Canada's prisons.
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