Sureties as Civilian Jailers: Understanding the Role of the Court in the Lives of Accused Released on Surety Bail in Ontario [2018]

Changes to Ontario’s bail system (2017) are intended to keep accused out of custody and in the community as they await trial. For the Ministry of the Attorney General, living in the community while on bail is a vast improvement to remand because there is minimal state involvement in the lives of accused, resulting in fewer personal and administrative disruptions. Yet, most accused in the province require a surety to be released. Justices of the peace, Crowns, and even defense counsel expect sureties to act like civilian jailers, which questions the level of state intervention at this stage in the legal process. Previous scholarship on bail attributes the overuse of surety releases to a culture of risk aversion whereby the courts offload responsibility and blame for the accused’s actions onto the surety. By exploring how court officials describe and determine who an appropriate surety is and the types of powers afforded to them, this paper argues that although sureties are legally obligated to supervise the accused, the court is still heavily involved in defining what this role looks like and how it should unfold outside the courtroom. The qualitative findings provide important insight into how criminally suspect individuals are governed in the province more generally.

Rachel Schumann

Canadian Review of Sociology, 23 October 2018