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How Can We Make Our Justice System More Just?

Imagine a justice system designed to address the needs of our most vulnerable populations. A justice system that recognises social issues such as poverty, mental health, disabilities and addiction, which could result in an intervention aimed at reducing recidivism and preventing incarceration.

In recent years there has been a growing commitment among the public, private, non-profit, and academic sectors to think differently about how justice and human services are organized and delivered. And yet no one has the mandate to “connect the dots”. Nobody knows who should be mandated to bring justice system participants, social services supports and those with lived experience together to find new ways of improving Canada’s justice system.

The criminal justice system works in silos. It deals with criminal behaviour but doesn’t address the root causes of that behaviour, such as homelessness, poverty, mental health and addiction. What is lacking is a holistic approach.

Despite decades of research and attempts to change how justice is administered, the justice system has been unable on its own to address those root causes. It is a complex, multi-sector problem and no one player can shift the outcome. We know there are local innovators involved at the community level that are making a difference but the system isn’t changing. This is the question – why not?