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Issues Surrounding Pre-Conviction Abstention Conditions

"Issues Surrounding Pre-Conviction Abstention Conditions on Persons Suffering from Illicit Substance Addictions"


Onerous bail conditions result in an increase of administration of justice offences and unnecessary detention in remand centres. Non-violent offenders suffering from substance addictions are disproportionately faced with the risk of increased detention time and “double charges” for use of illicit substances that is both a condition violation and an independent offense. The psychological effects associated with violating such conditions is counter-productive to a rehabilitation-oriented justice system. People suffering from conditions may fee l forced to use in secret and may fear obtaining clean needle kits and access to other harm reduction resources. Abstention conditions effectively force people suffering from addictions to keep their use private, which increases the risk of overdose and decreases the likelihood that they will seek treatment independently out of fear of harsh legal consequences. There is the possibility of a successful section 12 Charter argument against the imposition of onerous bail conditions on people suffering from addictions as cruel and unusual punishment.

The federal government has taken steps to enable a more compassionate and individualized assessment of condition violations without requiring automatic charges. The new federal scheme may see a reduction in the remand population, but it remains to be seen if it has an impact in the frequency of abstention conditions ordered in Manitoba. The meth crisis in Manitoba requires cooperation from all levels of government as well as increased public health funding to treat people suffering from addictions in long term facilities

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