Public perceptions influence key decisions in the bail system. Over time, a culture of fear has built up patterns of decision-making that are unreasonable and harmful. Attempts to reform bail have been stymied by cultures that are deeply entrenched.


What has been done so far?


What can we do to help?

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There’s reason to have hope. Advocates, journalists, researchers, and every day people have worked for years to generate political and social momentum for system-wide change.

It's essential that we learn from and build on past achievements and ongoing work. We've grouped these efforts into four categories:

  • Accountability: news media or research that holds our institutions to account

  • Programs: pilot programs and funded improvements to the justice system

  • Strategies: specific plans, frameworks, and proposals for reform

  • Advocacy: protests, media campaigns, legal challenges

The entries below are just a starting point. We need your help to identify the most important and impactful efforts that are undoing the harm caused by our culture of fear. Please share your feedback with us.

Senem Ozkin
A call for change in bail

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Creative media can help shift public discourse and institutional behaviours away from a culture based on fear by telling a different story about bail: how reasonable and fair decisions positively impact the accused, their families, and communities.

Creative media can play a pivotal role in displacing our culture of fear and replacing it with a culture of care: actors in the bail system ought to see themselves and, in fact, be enablers of a more just and fair society.

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There are times when actors in the justice system must legitimately take public perceptions into account when making critical decisions.

However, key decisions in our bail system are often unduly influenced by the threat of negative media coverage which taps into public fears and misconceptions.

Decisions by police 

Fear can lead to overcharging and sending too many people for bail hearings.

Decisions by Crown Prosecutors 

Fear can lead to overreliance on sureties and demands for excessive restrictions on bail releases.

Decision by Judicial Offers 

Fear can lead to unreasonable decisions and excessive restrictions for bail releases.

Over decades, these practices have created institutional cultures that are “risk-averse” to public perception but don’t actually reduce the risk of crime.

Instead, these fear-based cultures erode our fundamental principles of justice including the presumption of innocence and the right to liberty.

Shifting public perceptions is a critical step to reducing the culture of fear that leads to unjust outcomes.

News and social media can play a critical role in helping shift the public’s understanding and perceptions about the bail process.

A better informed and educated public can demand policies and legislation that directly address “risk-averse” institutional cultures, better uphold our fundamental principles, and lead to more just outcomes.


  • “Ontario’s over-reliance on surety releases, and the far too frequent imposition of multiple and excessive conditions on any release order, serve to increase the likelihood of pre-trial detention.”

    (A legal aid strategy for bail, Legal Aid Ontario)

  • “Counsel across all jurisdictions report conditions are frequently imposed that have little or no connection to the underlying offence and are of questionable relation to bail concerns of ensuring the accused returns to court, does not threaten public safety by committing further offences and does not interfere with the administration of justice.”

    (Set Up to Fail, CCLA)