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This is particularly the case for Indian and, Metis people. Seventy five percent of all males in jail in Saskatchewan for non-payment of fines are Indian. 98 per cent of the females, are Indian people.
The system of two laws, one for the rich and another for the poor is all too clear.
To provide a reasonable and positive alternative for people presently forced into jail because, they can't pay fines, the provincial government is introducing the Fine Option Program.
This program will provide the additional, alternative of voluntarily working-a-fine-out through a community project for all Criminal Code, provincial and municipal offenses where a fine is imposed.
Through the Fine Option Program of the Department of Social Services Corrections Division, community agencies such as service clubs, church groups, native band councils, inmate self-help organizations and municipal councils are being asked to provide and administer projects of benefit to the entire community which can be carried out by offenders instead of going to jail.
To minimize transportation problems and maximize the effects of the program, projects will be carried out in the community where the individual lives. The type of projects which might be included in the program include cleaning up community, parks, beaches or roadsides; maintaining or upgrading, ball diamonds or skating rinks; beaches.
To minimize transportation problems and maximize the effects of the program, projects will be carried out in the community where the individual lives. The type of projects which might be included in the program include cleaning up community parks, beaches or roadsides; maintaining or upgrading ball diamonds or skating rinks; assisting the handicapped or elderly in their needs; or any other project designed by a community agency likely to benefit the community.
A major advantage of the Fine Option Program is its realistic relationship between the value of a fine and the time required to work it out. Unlike jail sentencing where a fine may be worked out on a basis of less than two dollars a day, this program will allow people assessed fines to work them out at the prevailing minimum wage. A $50 fine that might carry a month in jail for non-payment will mean approximately 22 hours of community work as an alternative that the offender can choose.
In administering the program, no money will change hands. Upon completion of the required work, the offender will receive a voucher which will be accepted as payment by the court house, the police station or other authority responsible for the collection of fines.
In designing projects, community agencies will be encouraged to develop programs which will not take existing or potential work away from people already employed in the
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community. Community agencies will also be asked to design projects likely to be completed within the number of hours required to work out the fine.
Community projects will be task oriented and not specifically tied to hours, for example, if a skating rink can be repainted in roughly 45 hours, it could be an Ideal project for a physically capable man paying off a $100 fine. Besides paying his dues, a sense of accomplishment and community identification might be developed.
Nobody benefits when someone is forced to go to jail because he or she can't pay a fine; not the sentenced person; not the courts or the correctional system; and not the rest of society.
The new Fine Option Program will benefit everyone; it will prevent the disruption of lives and families caused when someone is forced to go to jail; it will make the judicial system more meaningful; the provincial correctional system will have more time to deal with people sent to jail for more serious offenses; and for Saskatchewan as a whole, the Fine Option Program is a step towards providing social justice for everyone.