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Canada has many organizations that work in the area of criminal justice reform. Below is a list of organizations whose exclusive or main focus is on criminal justice reform; many other organizations have an interest in these issues and work on them either from time to time or as one part of a broader mandate. Many of the organizations listed here are small, operating largely through the work of volunteers or with very limited budgets, and they are not always well connected to each other, which can reduce the overall impact of the work.
There may be other organizations who belong on this list. We welcome suggestions and will add to it and repost as we become aware of other organizations. The descriptions below are primarily drawn from the organizations’ own websites.
John Howard Society. John Howard has a national organization, provincial and territorial organizations, and local organizations in many cities across the country, each of which is independent and self-governing. Its purpose is “to understand and respond to problems of crime, to work with people who have come into conflict with the law, to review, evaluate and advocate for changes in the criminal justice process and to engage in public education on matters involving criminal law and its application.” Most direct services are delivered by the local organizations, but all John Howard groups are also involved in advocacy. Most provincial and many local groups have their own websites and Twitter or Facebook accounts.
Elizabeth Fry Society “is an association of self-governing, community-based Societies that work with and for women and girls in the justice system, particularly those who are, or may be, criminalized… The association exists to ensure substantive equality in the delivery and development of services and programs through public education, research, legislative and administrative reform, regionally, nationally and internationally.” Senator Kim Pate is a former head of the national Elizabeth Fry and often speaks about criminal justice issues.
The Canadian Criminal Justice Association (CCJA) “is an umbrella organization representing all elements of the criminal justice system, including the public. It exists to promote rational, informed, and responsible debate in order to develop a more humane, equitable, and effective justice system.” There are similar organizations in many provinces.
Canadian Families in Corrections Network (CFCN) “focuses on families, children, and friends who have someone they care about in jail. Our mission is to build stronger and safer communities by assisting families affected by criminal behavior, incarceration, and reintegration.”
Church Council on Justice and Crime (CCJC) is “a national, non-partisan, faith-based coalition, rooted in the Christian tradition. Its objectives are to advance crime prevention and healthy community development through restorative approaches to criminal justice and corrections; to propose ways to improve the criminal justice system from a restorative justice perspective; and to facilitate healing and recovery of offenders and victims of crime.” CCJC works with both multi-faith and non-religious partners.
Innocence Canada “(formerly the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted or AIDWYC) is a Canadian, non-profit organization dedicated to identifying, advocating for, and exonerating individuals convicted of a crime that they did not commit.” In addition, it works to prevent future injustices through legal education and reform. The work of its team of volunteer lawyers has been the subject of a previous post and has led to more than 20 exonerations for individuals who have served long jail sentences despite being innocent.
St. Leonard’s Society of Canada (SLSC) is “a membership-based, charitable organization dedicated to community safety. St. Leonard’s gives people who have been in trouble with the law a place to live and an opportunity to remove the stigma of being an ex-con through guidance, counseling, and understanding. St. Leonard’s also advocates reforms to the social justice system to ensure that those leaving prison are not returning to the community less able to live crime free than when they left.”
Umbrella organization dormant?
National Associations Active in Criminal Justice (NAACJ) is a coalition of about 20 organizations with an interest in the field of criminal justice. “The mission of the National Associations Active in Criminal Justice (NAACJ) is to enhance the capacity of member organizations to contribute to a just, fair, equitable and effective justice system.” While the concept is excellent, the organization appears to be largely inactive; the last material on the website is from 2014.
In later posts we will list some of the most active Twitter feeds related to criminal justice reform in Canada, and organizations that are primarily academic (centred in universities or colleges) that are involved in advocacy on criminal justice. Again, suggestions are welcome. E-mail to ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’.