June 27, 2017

Bail Or Jail: What Is The Best Solution For Defendants Awaiting Trial?

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One of the biggest debates on criminal law is whether defendants should be allowed their freedom while awaiting their trial. On one hand, we like to believe in the notion of innocent until proven guilty. But on the other, releasing dangerous people into the world could put the public at risk.

While serious crime has dropped to its lowest level in almost half a century, the laws surrounding this field are more important than ever. Potentially, people’s lives are at stake. But at the same time, it would be wrong to incarcerate an innocent defendant. After all, even if they are found not guilty, those poor souls won’t be able to get those months of jail time back.

Lost time isn’t the only negative impact. The mental scars of spending time behind bars can change a person forever. You can’t feel too much sympathy for the guilty, but it’s a situation that no innocent party deserves to suffer.

The severity of potential effects was highlighted in June 2015 when an innocent man committed suicide in a New York jail. The young man had been awaiting trial, but couldn’t afford the bail terms. After suffering three years of abuse inside, he eventually took his own life. A tragic story that leans towards feelings that bail is a positive thing.

However, some would argue that defendant aren’t necessarily safer on the outside. Regardless of whether they are guilty, facing serious charges makes them a target.

July’s shooting of a 20-year-old on bail in Vancouver was believed to be an act of retribution. Perhaps the deceased, who was facing charges of manslaughter himself, would have been better off inside.

Quite frankly, there are cases to support either side of this argument. There’s a lot of gray territory involved, and it largely comes down to a matter of opinion.

Nonetheless, there can be no arguments that it’s wrong to imprison an innocent person. Facing the charges is damaging enough. But spending time inside could completely shatter someone’s life forever. To have your world turned upside down simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time is a tragedy.

Additionally, supervised integration of a defendant back into the community can be completed at a fraction of jail time costs. It’s a drain on both finance and resources. When the services are already stretched, the imprisonment of innocent people only makes matters worse.

Bail bonds make it possible for cash-strapped defendants to get their freedom leading up to the trial. In a society where we should be innocent until proven guilty, this has to be seen a positive. Besides, the chances of someone reoffending during the bail period is quite slim.

This debate might never reach a universally accepted conclusion. There is ample evidence to support either side of the argument. Nonetheless, it cannot be right to treat someone like a criminal until they’ve been offered a fair trial. For that reason, unless there’s undeniable proof, bail has to be better than jail. At least until the court date.

Case closed.

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