OUR VIEW: Time served at a bonus

When someone is sentenced for a serious crime, like murder, we often hear their sentence was reduced to take into account the amount of time they’ve spent in jail awaiting trial.

Fair enough, but in some cases, that time served is credited at half again the time they spent behind bars. In the recent case of the Edward Casavant, the former Summerland lifeguard who was found guilty on child pornography and related charges, a year was trimmed off his six-year sentence, despite only having spent 242 days in jail.

In the past, criminals could have gotten up to double, triple in exceptional cases, credit for time served, under the rationale that pre-trial custody in a remand facility is considered hard time, with no access to rehab programs.

It’s not something that ever goes down easily with victims or the public at large, and its the amount it is questioned is in step with the degree of credit a criminal receives.

In Casavant’s case, the difference was relatively minor, since he pleaded guilty to his crimes and was processed through the system quickly.

But in lengthier investigations and trials, the difference can be more significant. A two-year wait in jail on a murder charge could mean three years off the sentence. Under the older double-credit rule, a murderer’s nine-year sentence could be reduced to five years remaining.

But the question has to be asked whether there is any real difference, considering modern regulations and jails, between pre- and post-sentencing jail time.

Certainly, for the family of a murder victim or the victims of a child pornographer, there isn’t. The changes to their lives are permanent — they will be dealing with them their entire lives — not limited by the sentence set by a judge.

The compassionate intent behind enhanced credit is commendable. Time served should always be taken into account when setting a sentence, but enhanced credit seems like giving the criminal a bonus.

It can’t be easy for a victim or their family to see a criminal serving less time than sentenced. Credit for criminals should be based on their efforts to reform or show remorse — it shouldn’t be automatic.

If judges remain concerned that criminals should get time off their sentences, it could be in terms of a choice: the possibility of parole, or enhanced credit for time-served?

It’s past time we took another look at the concept of enhanced credit and replaced it with a system that is fair to all involved.

– Black Press

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