Restorative Justice is becoming more common place a tool for courts. When someone commits a criminal offence, they may face criminal charges which could result in a fine, a custodial sentence, a restrictive probation order, or other correctional methods utilized by our justice system. However, are these methods effective ways of curbing crime? Of rehabilitating offenders? Of allowing victims and communities an opportunity to heal from the wrongdoings committed upon them? Proponents of restorative – justice would suggest that there are other methods which better address criminal behaviour.
A custodial term, for example, removes the offender from their community as a punishment for their deeds. But it also removes the offender from their own support system, and rehabilitative options are in custody vary greatly from institution to institution. Furthermore, other than appearing as a witness or providing a victim impact statement, there are limited methods for victims to become involved in the justice process.
Restorative justice is a method by which wrongdoings are addressed by alternative measures. Supporters of this method note that it allows accused individuals the opportunities to right the wrongs they have committed, and makes victims active participants in the justice system. Some restorative justice methods include counselling, First Nations sentencing circles, and community service programs.
The Limits of Restorative Justice
Restorative – justice is not a meant to be a substitute for traditional justice methods, rather a parallel alternative system. This is because restorative – justice is not appropriate for every case. Some situations where restorative justice is not a viable option include:
When the accused is charged with an indictable offence (facing over 2 years in jail);
When the victim cannot be determined;
When the Crown does not consent to restorative justice methods being used;
When the accused’s legal rights are at risk; and
When there is no restorative justice system in place in the community.
Canada’s Aboriginal people make up about 3.8% of the Canadian population but account for almost 24% of the total inmate population. Recently, Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator of Canada, called for more oversight for Aboriginal inmates. Sapers has made several recommendations, including: appointing a deputy commissioner for Aboriginal corrections, and addressing Aboriginal-specific provisions in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. These recommendations were made in 2013 but Sapers is hopeful that the new federal government will be quick to enact changes in order to address the growing number of Aboriginal inmates. Sapers notes that Aboriginal inmates are more likely to spend time in custody and in segregation cells. Aboriginal Criminal Law is constant evolving before the courts. The aboriginal criminal law team at Smordin Law is constantly updating their knowledge of the law that affects aboriginal criminal issues.
Longer time in jail for Aboriginal inmates
Sapers concerns are obviously well founded. For example, according to a 2014 Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview, Aboriginal inmates are less likely to get early release. Nearly 85% of Aboriginal inmates remain until they have served two-thirds of their sentences – compared to 69% of non-Aboriginal inmates. Sapers also refers to the lack of healing lodge spaces in prisons across the country. He is hopeful that the new government will be able to address the issue of over representation of aboriginal people and the criminal justice system.
While Canada’s prison watchdog fights for Aboriginal inmates, efforts are being made to help Aboriginal accused through restorative justice programs. For example, in 2014, an Aboriginal Persons was created in Brantford, Ontario. The Aboriginal Persons’ court is designed to handle the cases of Aboriginal people who have been charged with a criminal offence and propose sentences using a restorative justice approach aligned with Aboriginal culture and traditions. It runs two days per week and deals with guilty pleas and sentencing. Even if you’re charged outside of Brantford, you can request that your matter be transferred to this special court.
Smordin Law Experienced Advocates in Aboriginal Criminal Law
If you identify as Aboriginal and have been charged with a crime, it’s important to know the options available to you during your trial or plea, sentencing, and incarceration. The lawyers at Smordin Law have worked extensively with Aboriginal clients and understand how to incorporate Aboriginal culture and traditions into your case.
Smordin Law Criminal Lawyers 41 King William St. #200 Hamilton, ON L8R 1A2 Tel: 1 (905) 525-0005 Toll Free: 1 (844) 525-0005 Fax: 1 (905) 525-5716 www.smordinlaw.co