More data needed to reduce number of people on remand in Saskatchewan: provincial auditor

Saskatchewan’s auditor wants more action to keep people out of pre-trial detention — known as “remand”.

On Tuesday, the provincial auditor released its annual report.

One of its finding was that the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General, along with the Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety, is not doing enough to collect data about initiatives meant to bring the number of remands down.

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Short-term remand means someone held in a correctional centre for less than 31 days.

Saskatchewan has about twice the national average of people incarcerated on remand, according to 2018/2019 data from Statistics Canada. The national average was 49 people per 100,000 on remand; in Saskatchewan, that rate jumps to 110 people.

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“Individuals held on remand represent almost two-thirds of individuals admitted into custody, and over 40 per cent of the annual average daily counts of individuals in custody in Saskatchewan,” the report reads.

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The provincial auditor’s report notes that in 2017, measures were brought in to tackle the problem.

“By September 2020, the ministries have not decided by how much and by when they expect their various remand strategies to contribute to reducing the number of individuals on remand,” the report reads.

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“They need to set measurable targets, and collect key information from key external partners (e.g., police), and regularly analyze that information.”

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In an interview with Global News, a representative for both ministries said they are now analyzing data from the last 20 years.

“We can see who is coming in to our facilities, both from the man and the female side,” said Drew Wilby, assistant deputy minister of community engagement for the ministries.

“[We can see] the remand and the sentence side and get a better look at that, what may be driving some of those numbers and why we see increasing numbers.”

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The John Howard Society in Saskatchewan works with people on remand, including helping to run a Community Alternative to Remand (CAR) program for men in Prince Albert.

“I think this does come down, not to that we have more gruesome criminals or something in Saskatchewan,” said CEO Shawn Fraser.

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“It comes down to the fact that we have policy that promotes people being sent to remand whether they need to be or not.”

Along with the CAR program in Prince Albert, it was also in operation in Saskatoon and Regina before closing in March.

The province said about 40 per cent of people in the program weren’t engaged.

“They weren’t setting foot in the program, weren’t utilizing any of the services that were available,” Wilby said.

“Especially as it comes to short-term remand, it’s incredibly difficult to deliver services to people because you don’t know how long you have them.”

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The province said it needs to get better at intervening, such as in schools or before someone is remanded, to provide them what they need before the cycle continues.

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“Such as a drivers licence; make sure that they’ve got a connection to health services and other pieces,” Wilby said.

“Maybe it’s an addiction treatment programs or something like that so they don’t go back into that life they know and continue to churn through it.”

The Salvation Army ran two of the pilots in Saskatoon and Regina, and said a great deal was learned from the operation.

“The importance of creating partnerships in the justice community and the community at large so we can better resource people who come in to our facilities,” said Salvation Arm Maj. Mike Hoeft.

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The John Howard Society said helping people out of remand will save money, saying it costs around $180 a night per person.

“For the price of a new remand bed we could just house people over and over again in community,” Fraser said.

The province said it is working on creating a new alternative to remand program.


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