Smart Justice Community Dialogues: Some Background

The Smart Justice Network of Canada (SJNC) is organizing a series of community dialogue sessions across Canada in locations including Halifax, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. These dialogues aim to tap into the experiences and knowledge of Canadians around harm and ‘justice’ in their communities.  Current approaches are often costly, ineffective and unjust.  Critical to changing this is more widespread recognition of key connections to mental illness, addictions, cognitive and other ability challenges, health, education, youth services, housing, poverty and employment. Many Canadians and their families know full well – and the research confirms – that these are struggles that increase risk : not only of being a victim of crime and other harms, but also of being charged with a criminal offence and sent to prison.

Many have also been shocked to discover to what extent supports are missing to help people with this: to recover from harm, to rebuild lives and relationships, to improve the conditions that  keep each other safe and build healthy communities.   More than police and legal tools are required for this. Many other programs and services have shown good results. But funding for these initiatives has been minimal and short-term as compared to money still invested in criminal justice responses even in situations for which they are already known to be inappropriate.

Smart Justice is the simple idea that the best responses to crime  are those that have been proven to increase safety, support victims, protect families, reduce re-offending and involve communities. It does not waste resources on responses that are known to be ineffective or unnecessary.

SJNC is inviting Canadians to dialogue with others looking for constructive outcomes that re-build lives and communities and to consider how the resources needed to achieve this  can be provided on a sustainable basis. Based on the ideas discussed during these dialogue sessions, the SJNC plans to encourage new initiatives and present policy alternatives to local decision makers, legislators, as well as policy makers and practitioners, for practical changes that can help communities and governments adopt smart approaches to crime, and related harm, that are demonstrably effective.