New policies seek to reduce overrepresentation of Indigenous offenders in B.C. criminal justice system | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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New policies seek to reduce overrepresentation of Indigenous offenders in B.C. criminal justice system

The B.C. Prosecution Service has introduced new policy aimed at increasing fairness and reducing overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the province's criminal justice system.
January 18, 2021 - 1:28 PM

New policy changes introduced by the B.C. Prosecution Service aims to increase fairness and reduce overrepresentation of Indigenous people facing the province’s criminal justice system.

The B.C. Prosecution Service announced the changes in a press release issued Friday, Jan. 15, which are part of the Indigenous Justice Framework policy introduced in April, 2019.

A key aspect of the new policy emphasizes the need for restraint in all sentencing and bail matters, recognizing jail terms — particularly those of two years or less — should be seen as a last resort.

The new policies include a requirement for Crown counsel to consider “all reasonable alternatives to prosecution,” increasing the number and types of offences that can be considered for an alternative to prosecution.

As well as providing more specific guidance to the Crown for handling files involving an Indigenous person, the revised policy also confirms a person’s previous involvement in the criminal justice system will not be reason for not being dealt with through alternative measures.

The new policies extend to provide youth offenders with similar considerations for alternatives to prosecution.

The Indigenous Justice Framework was developed to recognize and address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system and is part of ongoing new approach to handling Indigenous criminal cases that began in March, 2017.

“These additional policy changes mark one more step along the path to changing the status quo for Indigenous persons involved in the criminal justice system," assistant deputy attorney general Peter Juk, Q.C. said. “Acting alone, Crown counsel cannot eliminate systemic discrimination or the unacceptable overrepresentation of Indigenous person in the criminal justice system. But Crown counsel plays a critical role and must be part of the solution."

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