Research Shows Justice-Involved Youth Triggers Further Involvement With The Law
Peacebuilders Canada applauds the government’s introduction of Bill C-22, an Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to introduce legislation which encourages the police and Crown Attorneys to divert the overwhelming majority of simple possession charges. This bill also repeals mandatory minimums penalties for many offences and makes conditional sentences more widely available. Mandatory Minimum Penalties and restrictions on the availability of conditional sentences have disproportionately punished at-risk Indigenous people and Black Canadians. In particular, we stand in solidarity with them in applauding these changes.
Peacebuilders board member, criminal defence lawyer, Stephanie DiGiuseppe, sees Bill 22 as an important first step in reducing the criminalization of Indigenous and racialized individuals, creating space for restorative, community-based, wraparound programs, promoting community safety. “By repealing mandatory minimum sentences and increasing the availability of most conditional sentences, Judges’ increased discretionary powers when sentencing individuals will enable them to consider the particular circumstances of each individual case,” she says.
Founder and Director of Peacebuilders Canada, Eva Marszewski, adds: “Research shows that justice-involved youth can potentially trigger further involvement with the criminal justice system. Increasing referrals to diversion for simple possession of narcotics means that many young people will no longer be criminalized and stigmatized. Diversion-based interventions rehabilitate individuals who come into contact with the law, increasing school participation and productive activities, lowering rates of recidivism and making our communities safer.”
For over 17 years, Peacebuilders’ restorative justice program has provided individual support and mentorship to young people, diverting them out of the justice system before trial, and resulting in withdrawn charges. Over 1,000 youth have thus been diverted out of the youth courts before trial, easily saving taxpayers over $45 million dollars in incarceration costs alone. Peacebuilders’ Restorative Schools program reduced school suspensions by over 60 percent.
Peacebuilders is a Toronto-based not for profit organization which provides access to justice for young people and advocates for change in our justice and education systems. It uses restorative practices and provides holistic services to young people in the justice system and works directly in schools to help build safe and supportive learning environments.
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