Pivot has long drawn attention to the harms of bail conditions and how frequently and arbitrarily they are imposed, disproportionately against communities who are over-criminalized, over-incarcerated, and routinely targeted by police. In our 2018 report Project Inclusion, we found that certain bail conditions in particular—namely, abstinence conditions, ‘no drug paraphernalia’ conditions, and area restrictions or ‘red zones’—cause people harm and directly undermine personal and public health and safety.
Over the last two years, we have had some success in changing law and policy around bail conditions that impact people who use drugs. In April 2019, the Director of Public Prosecutions directed federal Crown prosecutors to minimize detention for breaches of bail conditions, in part by no longer imposing the three above-mentioned conditions on people experiencing addiction. The Directive cites Project Inclusion as evidence that imprisonment for minor breaches related to substance use can adversely affect people’s tolerance levels for opioid use and put them at increased risk of overdose after release from jail.
In December 2019, Pivot intervened at the Supreme Court of Canada in a case called R v Zora: a case about bail breaches that ultimately marked a new path forward for Canada’s broken bail system. We argued that proving a breach must be a tailored exercise—one that takes into account the lived experience and subjective circumstances of the person accused. Unanimously, the Court agreed.