The Canadian criminal justice system is complex, with multiple actors, various levels of government involved in its oversight and operations, and processes that are difficult to navigate for most individuals, especially without expert legal guidance. This results in many points of vulnerability for Indigenous, Black, and racialized individuals and families. Poverty further heightens this vulnerability.
Many groups, including community-based organizations, advocacy groups, and human rights bodies, have exposed systemic racism within the various components of the criminal justice system. Systemic racism affects every stage of the criminal justice process, such as police surveillance and interaction, arrest, charges, bail and remand, sentencing, conditions of incarceration, and release. In real terms, it means that Indigenous, Black, and other racialized persons in Canada are not treated equally before the law. Their human rights are not being met.
Poverty, including lack of access to funds and lack of social capital, is another factor that makes people vulnerable. It means that individuals and families who get caught up in the criminal justice system are less equipped to navigate the system and less able to mount appropriate defenses. Poverty also means that bail, probation, and parole conditions are more difficult to comply with, increasing the probability that people will be re-arrested.
Maytree’s work focuses on exploring and deepening our understanding of the intersections between human rights, poverty, racism, and the criminal justice system.