News

End of year message: Remand Reflections

Posted: December 21st, 2016 at 09:12am

As the year draws to a close, let’s take a minute to state a few under acknowledged realities that will continue to fuel our work as we move into 2017:

  • Ontario is facing a remand crisis
  • Young people in remand custody in the adult system are unseen and under-served

Most people sitting in prisons haven’t been convicted of crimes, and most charges that are laid in Ontario will be dropped before going to trial. This is a criminal justice system that lacks justice. The Macdonald-Laurier Institute found that Ontario has one of the highest rates of charges being dropped or stayed at 43%. And of those cases that go to trial, only 53% will lead to a conviction. The Institute also found that Ontario has one of the highest numbers of accused persons on remand in Canada. Remand is where you are incarcerated and are awaiting trial, being detained in prison without having been convicted of a crime.

The criminal justice system further disadvantages young people by rendering them invisible in the adult system, barring access to programs and services known to increase lifelong success. Youth (18-24 year olds) aren’t seen or accounted for in our adult justice system. They are an invisible community of youth, our forgotten students. As a young person in remand custody, you haven’t been convicted for a crime, but are being detained for weeks, to months, to years awaiting trial. How does being held in remand delay your educational and employment prospects? How does being detained affect your personal development? What is the transition like from custody back to community when you are also navigating the transition to adulthood?

In most facets of society, youth is seen as a period of transition where investments in youth development have been linked to lifelong positive benefits. But how can we invest in youth development if we don’t acknowledge that a community of young people exists?

Amadeusz: Look at my life project is helping young people graduate high school, complete their G.E.D’s and pursue post-secondary while on remand in adult facilities. This work begins by acknowledging that a community of young people exists with the same rights to education as other young people. And their work is seeing some powerful results.

Our wish for 2017 is that our forgotten students become visible, and with this that there are more programs working on the inside that make this time in limbo productive.

And that we begin to build a justice system that is just and equitable while we are at it.

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