Purposes, what to expect, how to participate, copyright and reproduction

Why this blog?

Crime and criminal justice are topics of great interest to people.  They are frequently reported in the news, a common subject of public conversation, and therefore of political interest.  But crime is also a subject that rouses a great deal of emotion.  And that leads to the danger that public attitudes and public policy will be based on emotional responses rather than on knowledge and evidence.  We can end up taking actions that make things worse rather than better – and indeed, most people who know this field believe that this is what has happened in Canada in the last twenty years.

The mission of John Howard Canada is to promote “effective, just and humane responses to the causes and consequences of crime”.  One key way of doing that is to promote greater public knowledge of issues of crime and criminal justice so that people can form their opinions and governments can take action based on the best available knowledge about what will provide the greatest benefit to Canadians.  Supporting public awareness fits the Society’s goals for advocacy and community information.

There is much excellent research and writing in Canada and around the world on criminal justice issues.  However Canadian work tends to be found either in academic journals or in opinion pieces that have a short shelf-life.  This work does not reach as many people as it should, and there is currently no place in Canada that brings together a wide range of voices around the issue of how we can as a society best respond to issues of crime and wrongdoing.

That is the purpose of this new blog.  We will post material that helps people be better informed about all aspects of the criminal justice system.  Our goal is to help build a well-informed public, which in turn should lead to better public policy and a more successful approach to criminal justice; one that uses public resources wisely to reduce crime, reduce harm related to crime, and provide more support for victims of crime.

What people don’t know about criminal justice in Canada

To understand the need for this kind of venture, consider the following facts about our criminal justice system, which most Canadians don’t know.

– According to the Senate Committee report, ‘Justice Delayed’, more than 4 million Canadians have a criminal record on the CPIC system used by police.  This is about one in 8 adults.  This means that almost everyone in Canada knows someone with a criminal record, even if we are not aware of it.  Yet a criminal record often has lifelong negative effects on many aspects of one’s life.

– Although crime has declined very substantially over the last 25 years, the number of people arrested has decreased much more slowly and the number of people in jail has actually gone up.

– We read and hear about criminal trials, but in more than 90% of criminal cases in Canada, there is no trial; more than one in four cases is dropped by the prosecution while in almost all others, the person charged pleads guilty without testing their guilt in a court.

– The majority of people in provincial jails are being held even though they have not been found guilty.  On an average day in Canada, more than 10,000 people who are ‘presumed innocent’ are being held in jail, a huge increase from 20 years ago and the main cause of the terrible overcrowding in provincial jails across the country.

– Most people jailed as a result of a criminal conviction are not granted parole, and those who are paroled often face a very restrictive set of limits on how they can live.  Yet very few people on parole commit a new crime and hardly any commit a serious or violent new crime.

–   It costs the public between $5,000 and $12,000 per month to keep someone in jail even though we have good evidence that jail does little or nothing to reduce criminal activity and may even increase it.  On the other hand, community supervision costs no more than $1000 per month, and often much less.

These facts illustrate some of the problems in the Canadian justice system that will be discussed in this blog.  We hope that readers will find our material interesting, challenging, and informing.

What can you expect on the blog?

Over the coming months we plan to include a wide range of voices speaking about many different issues.  We will publish material on all aspects of the criminal justice system, including but not limited to:

  • how crime gets defined,
  • how to reduce crime,
  • policing and who gets arrested,
  • the court system,
  • access to lawyers,
  • criminal sentencing,
  • the prison system,
  • parole and probation,
  • the long-term effects of crime and punishment,
  • support for victims of crime.

We will look at how the system affects different groups of people.  We will give particular attention to ideas and effort to make the system better, fairer and more efficient as well as effective.

We will publish work by criminologists, researchers, policy experts, people who work in the criminal justice system, victims of crime, people who have been convicted of crimes, and others who have something to say on these issues.

We will primarily address issues in Canada but will include work from other countries where it is relevant to our experience.

We will try to respond to issues in the news related to criminal justice but you can also expect to read and hear about important issues that don’t get into the news.

We will publish personal experiences, think pieces, advocacy, research findings and data, and conclusions from public reports.

We will publish original work but will also reprint (always with acknowledgment) interesting work that has appeared elsewhere.  We will connect readers with the best sources around the world in this field.

While most of the content will be print, we want to publish audio and video material as well.

The site is meant to encourage discussion and public information.  The John Howard Society does not necessarily endorse or support ideas or positions that appear in the blog; the official position of the Society on various issues appears elsewhere on this site, though it may be referenced in the blog.

Discussion, input and contributions

Our site allows and invites comments from readers.  We hope there will be lots of discussion and debate.  However comments will be moderated by the editors.  We will not publish comments that are personal attacks or that consist of insults or other content that does not speak to the actual issues.  We are looking for comments that are informed by evidence or compelling experience.

We are always looking for interesting material for the blog or ideas on how it could be improved.  We welcome suggestions from readers in that regard.  Any inquiries about content should be e-mailed to ‘blogeditor [at] johnhoward.ca’.

Copyright and reproduction

You are invited to share or reference material from this blog on social media or for any other bona-fide purpose.  Unless otherwise indicated, content may be reproduced without charge for any non-profit purpose provided that sources (both johnhoward.ca and any previous source in the post) are acknowledged.