The National Criminal Justice Symposium is an annual forum for justice leaders to share perspectives and solutions on how we can create a responsive, accessible, and accountable criminal justice system and address the challenges that prevent this goal from being realized.
JHS Pacific joined some 100 criminal justice practitioners, professionals, Indigenous-serving organizations, advocates, researchers, and other experts this past March at the 13th National Symposium to explore the topic of “Criminal Justice Reform and the Pandemic.”
As with all human systems, in order for the justice system to function effectively, the ability to have direct, sustained personal interactions is essential. Across Canada and beyond, the COVID-19 pandemic immensely impacted the ability to do this as people, organizations, and governments collectively worked to contain and limit the spread of the virus. As a result of the challenges caused by COVID-19, as well as the opportunities it presented in the implementation of new, adaptive technologies and approaches, the symposium focused in on this key topic.
Over the course of three days, participants explored pressing challenges related to COVID-19 and the opportunities presented related to the implementation of new, adaptive approaches.
Our CEO, Mark Miller, took part in a multi-disciplinary panel discussion on how the pandemic acted as a stimulus to working holistically, with our Community Support Initiatives (CSI) serving as the primary case study into cross-sectoral coordination done right.
Throughout the symposium, themes appeared which highlighted some of the positive impacts that working holistically during the pandemic have had on the justice system and service delivery, as well as where potential opportunities exist to improve. Here are just some of the many themes that arose:
- Too many people have been placed in prison, who would be best supported in community
- Not all pandemic-related issues were novel: COVID-19 simply made some more acute
- There is a strong need for community-based diversion and reintegration, and after years of talk, we saw the creation of truly collaborative diversion efforts as a result of COVID-19
- The pandemic has seen us reinvent roles and partnerships in ways that improved outcomes
- Community-based solutions require us to empower and fund communities
Learn more about the themes that arose throughout the panel discussion, as well as the full symposium here.
As a result of the critical dialogue revolving around the themes and areas of interest, symposium participants worked together to create practical, actionable recommendations for those responsible for the administration of the criminal justice system at the federal, provincial, and territorial levels of government and for the consideration of the public.
As a criminal and social justice organization with 90 years of experience advocating for and supporting our communities most vulnerable members, it was a pleasure to bring our perspectives, expertise, and program examples to this important forum.