Aboriginal Justice Strategy
Third-Party Evaluations of AJS-Funded Programs
The effectiveness of the AJS is measured, in part, by how well community-based justice programs are working, and by what impact they are having on the justice system. In 2005-06, two programs were formally evaluated by third parties with AJS participation or funding support. Results are summarized below.
Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres
The Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres (OFIFC) represents the collective interests of 28 member Friendship Centres throughout the province. The OFIFC Community Justice Program administers funds for 5 Aboriginal community-based justice projects in participating Friendship Centres (Thunderbird in Geraldton, Three Fires in Niagara, N’Amerind in London, Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Sarnia and Wikwemikong in Sudbury). The community projects offer culturally appropriate pre- and post-charge diversion for Aboriginal youths and adults in conflict with the law.
The program was evaluated in 2005 to identify ways to improve service delivery to clients, and to evolve and expand services offered. Information was collected by way of document/literature review, project site visits, and structured interviews with clients, Crown, program directors and co-ordinators, funders and OFIFC staff.
- All stakeholder groups consider the program worthwhile. The Aboriginal cultural content in particular was identified as an important element and a strength.
- The volume of cases referred varies significantly among programs, from no diversions in one program to over 150 in another. Low diversion rates mean strained cost-effectiveness, and minimal positive impact on the communities intended to be served.
- The absence of a Crown policy/signed protocols on diversion, resulting in a reluctance to divert, has been a significant barrier to success. A recent decision of the Ministry of the Attorney General to advise Crowns to develop local diversion protocols rather than wait for a province-wide policy is expected to remove that obstacle.
- The majority of client/offenders valued the program as a meaningful alternative to mainstream processing and sanctions, could not identify any other assistance that the diversion program might have offered them, and would recommend it to others in conflict with the law.
- Crowns generally reported that the program met their expectations but that they could not assess its effects: the program has not been operating long enough; the community is not yet sufficiently aware of it; or diverted cases are still open. Measures of success for Crowns would be an increase in cases diverted and lower recidivism.
- Program directors/coordinators identified early community involvement and the contributions of the OFIFC (needs assessments, proposal writing, training and advisory services) as important to the program’s success. Common problems encountered during development and implementation were: limited understanding on the part of Crowns of processes and protocols, and a reluctance to divert; significant staff turnover; and a lack of funding for comfortable offices. Some of those problems continue for some programs.
- Financial reporting and accountability are professional and sophisticated. Training and orientation tools produced by the OFIFC are excellent documents for communities wishing to establish programs.
- The establishment of a diversion protocol with local Crown Attorneys should be a priority for existing programs, and a pre-requisite for new programs.
- A diversion training program should be developed for Aboriginal Courtworkers, and for local duty counsel in communities with no Aboriginal Courtworkers, to identify appropriate cases for diversion.
- Program budgets should have funding dedicated to community outreach, volunteer training, and annual audits that involve client/offenders and victims.
- It would benefit all programs to have better communication among Friendship Centres, including sharing best practices, trouble-shooting difficulties and offering mutual support.
Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) Justice Initiative
The PAGC Justice Planning Commission co-ordinates and supports 12 community justice committees that offer pre- and post-charge alternative/extrajudicial measures programs for adults and youth (Alternative Measures Program), as well as mediation, family group conferencing, healing circles and sentencing circles. The Justice Initiative is also involved in victim services, crime prevention, offender reintegration and rehabilitation, and victim/offender healing.
An evaluation of the PAGC Alternative Measures Program was completed in 2005. The evaluation was to determine whether the program was meeting its stated objectives and to identify service delivery improvements. Information was derived from document review, written questionnaires, observation, and interviews (telephone and in-person).
- Program Administration & Delivery: stakeholders are generally satisfied with administration and service delivery; the referral process works well. Follow-up with offenders and victims does not meet their needs. Processes for sharing information with Crown, police and the courts need to be reviewed. The role of the Co-management Committee is not well-defined and understood.
- Training: caseworkers require training in specific areas that present in referred cases, including sexual and spousal abuse, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and anger management. There are no standards by which to measure an effective intervention.
- Policy Development: half of the respondents believe that the provincial alternative measures protocol needs to be reviewed (largely to expand eligible offences to include, with discretion, some sex trade, drug and domestic violence cases). Program performance measures are lacking.
- Funding: adequate financial support is critical to maintaining and expanding an effective program.
- Client Satisfaction: offenders were generally satisfied with the process, and reported having a better understanding of how victims feel. Almost half of the victims reported that they were not told that their case was closed; some reported that they were not invited to attend the intervention. Businesses (as shoplifting victims) have little or no knowledge of the program.
- The Co-management Committee (comprised of the Alternative Measures Program Coordinator and one representative from each of Saskatchewan Justice, Saskatchewan Corrections & Public Safety, and the AJD) should operate in a collaborative manner, meeting regularly and more often.
- The Co-management Committee should develop and implement plans to increase the involvement of victims, improve awareness of the program among businesses, and build relationships with other criminal justice system personnel.
- Program caseworkers should: ensure that offender agreements are tailored to the situation, and that service or payment to the victim are part of all agreements; provide adequate follow-up with both offender and victim; be provided with general and specialized training that meets program needs.
- Saskatchewan Justice and Saskatchewan Corrections & Public Safety should conduct a formal review of the provincial guidelines for to diversion to alternative measures programs.
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