PLEASE feel invited to distribute widely, noting that: Danny Graham, Founding Chair of Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program (an authentic and generous individual, whom I had the pleasure of meeting and sharing kindred conversation - my blog on our sharing: http://sawbonna.blogspot.ca/2014/04/sawbonna-theodore-tug-boat-danny-graham.html), Barry Stuart, Former Chief Judge of the Yukon Territory, (with whom I have shared rich conversation in-person), and Gerry Thompson, Former Deputy Minister, Justice Canada, are some of the signatories to this document. http://smartjustice.ca/
Proposal to Government of Canada on Criminal Justice Reform(6)
- There has been a growing crisis in our criminal justice system and there is an urgent need to attend to this.
- The incoming government’s approach to criminal and social justice will go a long way in beginning to address this crisis.
- In addition to already-announced reforms (i.e.C-51amendments; judicial discretion in sentencing etc.) it is recommended that the new government convene in collaboration with provincial-territorial-indigenous governments an evidence-based review of the Canadian criminal justice system, necessary to provide a coherent, integrated and comprehensive strategy for criminal justice policy and practice.
- Successive governments since the late 1980’s have passed new criminal laws on a piecemeal basis.
- This approach has been costly, harmful to vulnerable populations and has produced incoherent and ineffective outcomes including:
- skyrocketing spending on the criminal justice system (a $2 billion increase 2002- 2012; up 72% federally and 47.9% in provinces and territories);
- growing incarceration rates (8,305 more people in our prisons by 2012 than in 2000);
- an alarming, rising incarceration of people with mental health challenges, who require services not available in prison;
- a grossly disproportionate number of Indigenous citizens in prison (though they represent only 3- 4% of our overall population, by 2013 they represented 23% of our federal prison population, 33% for women);
- limited opportunities and support for victims to meaningfully participate, heal, rebuild their lives;
- over-loaded and delayed courts: over half of provincial correctional centre inmates are waiting for their cases to be heard (an increase by 45% in 10 years (2003-2013).
- The review process proposed should be an exercise in public engagement involving more than just politicians, public servants and justice system partners.
- Engaging the public and civil society organizations in this review (key stakeholders in criminal and social policy, Indigenous organizations, victims’ rights and social justice groups, bar and police associations as well as others with experience in related fields) would give rise to a number of beneficial results including:
- increasing political support for future reforms;
- creating vital partnerships for potential initiatives;
- engaging Indigenous communities in a way that will assist the reconciliation work recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada;
- gaining important knowledge and wisdom regarding initiatives and solutions that exist at the local level;
- building commitment to undertake work at the community/local level;
- increasing public education and deepening the public’s understanding of criminal justice issues.