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Issues of inequality and racism are at the very forefront of the news in Canada. The criminal justice system is often cited as a place where these problems are notable.
These issues have been a central focus of this blog, where they have been addressed in two ways.
Post specifically on equity
First, a number of posts have had an explicit focus on equity issues, often based on the work of key advocates in Canada. Examples would include:
- A very early post by Queens Law professor Lisa Kerr focused on the work of US civil rights and criminal justice advocate Bryan Stevenson, now made famous by the movie, ‘Just Mercy’.
- Akwasi Owusu-Bempah and colleague wrote an analysis of many aspects of crime and justice in relation to race, especially for Black and Indigenous people.
- A post based on a Toronto Star article focused on inequality in who gets arrested.
- Several posts reference the reports of Canada’s Correctional Investigator, all of which draw attention to major issues of inequality in Canada’s prisons related to ethnicity or gender or age.
- A post on policing was based on a study showing that the number of police in cities in Canada is predicted not by crime rates but by the size of the minority population.
- A 2018 post was based on Robyn Maynard’s book, Policing Black Lives.
- Another post discussed the mandate letter to the then-new Correctional Services Commissioner Ann Kelly, which gave considerable attention to how the system treated Indigenous people. Yet the goals of that letter appear are apparently not being addressed.
- A post reviewing Jonathan Rudin’s book, Indigenous People and the Criminal Justice System: A Practitioner’s Handbook
Many other posts also
However equity issues appear to some degree in almost every post, because so many aspects of the criminal justice system seem to embody systemic discrimination. For example, people who are poor or visible minorities are more likely to be held on remand, and problems in the bail and remand system have been the focus of several posts.
Several posts have addressed the problem of false guilty pleas, another outcome that appears to be more prevalent among minority groups.
Parole tends to happen less often and more slowly for Indigenous prisoners, meaning they spend more of their sentence locked up than do others with similar crimes or sentences.
Post-release problems, such as lack of access to jobs or housing are also differentially severe for some groups.
It’s impossible to consider virtually any aspect of our justice system without realizing that it embodies systemic disparities related to the resources and social capital different people carry. Yet that inequality undermines the most basic concept of justice. Though often raised, these problems have yet to be addressed in a serious way.