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The article “Unequal Justice: Aboriginal and Black Inmates Disproportionately Fill Ontario Jails” by Jim Rankin and Patty Winsa deals with the topical issue of the Canadian criminal justice system that has drawn much attention from human rights defenders and various international organizations. The problem of the Canadian jail system is the alarmingly high overrepresentation of such minorities as Aboriginals and Blacks in comparison with Whites, especially while analyzing these figures together with the general population statistics. The basis of the article is statistics concerning prison situation in the province prepared by Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto. Besides the statistics, the article refers to the statements made by lawyers, a criminology professor, and researchers of the raised issue.

The situation in Ontario is alarming in terms of making the racial discrimination evident in the field of criminal justice. The discriminatory charge applies to both youth and adults spending their terms in correctional facilities. A criminal lawyer Reid Rusonik tells, “Name any essentially similar offense and the case law always seems to find it more serious when a black man commits it”. The same biased attitude is characteristic of the aboriginal population. For instance, the number of aboriginal adolescent males in jails is five times higher than their percentage in the entire male population. Concerning the black youth, the total amount “of jail admissions is four times higher”. Among the young female jail population, the overrepresentation is apparent only among aboriginals. However, “for white boys and boys of other ethnicities, there is no such overrepresentation”. The issue of these minorities’ overrepresentation in Ontario jails has raised public concern as it is a signal of racial discrimination. Sometimes, the problem of the vast number of black inmates in Canadian prisons is compared with the similar problem of the U.S. criminal justice system, yet the Canadian situation has not evoked the same amount of attention from government officials.

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Significant part of the article concerns the question “Why do our jails look this way?”. Authors single out several reasons that, in their opinion, are the key factors of these minorities’ overrepresentation in Ontario jails. These reasons include the following: “historical discrimination, a ruinous trickle-down legacy of residential schools that sees generations of parents with no parenting models, children in foster care, bouncing from home to home, and coping through alcohol and drugs”. Thus, the majority of aboriginal and black inmates come from poor families with virtually no possibility of providing children with decent living conditions. Moreover, the majority of young inmate population suffers from psychological problems and mental disorders, yet the system of correctional institutions fails to provide them with the necessary help. The harsh parole system leaves little chances for the release of black and aboriginal inmates due to their belonging to the disadvantaged groups of population. As inmates receive no assistance and are not provided with a sufficient number of development programs, they are prone to commit crimes after release and get back to jail. Besides, “making bail is harder when you have no home, are poor, or have no one to be a surety”.

The problem requires urgent measures in order to alter the squalid situation in Canadian jails. In 1995, there was issued a report on systemic racism in Ontario justice system, yet its recommendations have never been implemented. Furthermore, assessment of the report points out that most recommendations are applicable to general improvement of the criminal justice system rather than the issue of systemic racism. The most amazing fact is that there are “enough resources in this province to move towards solutions”, but little is done in the reality. The main problem is that the majority of adopted policies address various problems concerning jail sentences, harsher punishments for minor crimes, reorganization of the bail and parole procedures, etc. However, there is a widespread idea that it is much cheaper and more efficient to create healthy communities and prevent crimes than to punish and keep criminals in jails. After the last summer notorious shooting incident in Toronto, the government of the province has launched a plan temporarily encompassing five years aimed at revealing and combating youth violence. Nonetheless, “Canada is being hauled before a human rights tribunal to face allegations it mistreats aboriginal children”.

It is obvious that many criminals of the Black and Aboriginal origin commit crimes because they do not know other ways of obtaining money for themselves and their families. The government should take effective measures for solving this topical social problem in order to reduce the total number of jail incarcerations. Minorities’ overrepresentation in jails and their evident discrimination in the criminal justice system are the alarming symptoms of a deeper social problem that has to be urgently addressed in order to create a healthy and prosperous society in the province because “you can’t arrest your way into a peaceful society”.

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