John Howard Society of Sudbury
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March 2024 News Flash !!!

Canada attempts to address ‘shameful’ racial disparity in criminal justice system

Canada’s federal government introduced a bill on Thursday February 29, 2024 aimed at addressing what the justice minister called a “shameful” over-representation of Black and indigenous people in the criminal justice system.

Indigenous adults represent 5% of Canada’s general population but 30% of its federally incarcerated population, Justice Minister David Lametti said. Black people represent 3% of the general population but 7.2% of the federal offender population.

The bill ends mandatory minimum sentences for select drug and firearm crimes and makes it easier to impose conditional sentences that can be served in the community.

It also requires police and prosecutors to consider alternatives such as treatment in cases of simple drug possession. This comes amid a worsening overdose crisis, with the government under increasing pressure to decriminalize the possession of opioids and other illicit drugs.

Lametti told reporters he would not rule out the possibility of decriminalization, but said “what I’m focusing on today is the sentencing element.”

“This (racial disparity in the justice system) is shameful,” he said. “The reason the numbers are so high is due in good part to current sentencing laws, which focus on punishment.”

Mandatory minimum penalties have been found to contribute to over-incarceration of people of color, and their repeal could make a big difference for individuals who might otherwise spend years behind bars, said Jamie Livingston, a criminologist at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.

At least 54 inmates held past release date in Ontario jails in 2023, documents show

At least 54 inmates stayed in Ontario-run jails longer than they were supposed to last year, CBC Hamilton has learned.

Records obtained by CBC through a freedom-of-information request show the number of inmates held past their release date from early October 2022 to August 2023.

The records show 17 inmates were improperly detained at the Toronto South Detention Centre, nine inmates at the Maplehurst Correctional Complex and six at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre. Thirteen other jails in Ontario saw this happen to three inmates or fewer.

Reports related to the improper detentions at the Toronto South Detention Centre were heavily censored with white redactions, obscuring how much information there is in each report, as well as details like why and how long people were detained for.

But some reports indicate administrative errors between the courts and the jails caused some of the prolonged detentions. For example, jail staff say they didn’t receive documents from court staff.

In at least one other case, an inmate informed staff he was supposed to be released.

The Ministry of the Solicitor General declined an interview but told CBC Hamilton “overdue releases account for less than 0.2 per cent of all releases and the ministry conducts investigations to determine the cause and if any process changes are needed.”

While the mistakes seem to be rare, given Ontario’s total inmate population was 33,571 in the 2022 fiscal year, some experts, lawyers and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the province needs to investigate why this is happening and invest in the system to put a stop to it.

“Any time somebody is detained past their release date, it’s not acceptable,” said Asgar Manek, a defence lawyer in Hamilton who has had a client who was improperly detained.

Manek said he previously had a client who stayed in jail for a few days past his release date due to a clerical error.

Howard Sapers, former federal correctional investigator and former Ontario independent advisor on correctional reform, said communication gaps between departments, staffing shortages caused by stretched budgets, and a lack of oversight are all factors that lead to these errors.

“Problems like this happen again and again because people simply aren’t paying enough attention,” he said, adding that most inmates in provincial jails haven’t been found guilty of the charges they face.

Manek said in his experience, a lack of local judges, the timing of when documents are sent and the timing of release orders can also lead to overdue releases.

For more on this issue follow:


The John Howard Society believes in effective, just and humane responses to crime and its causes.  We are dedicated to creating genuinely safer communities by helping to foster a truly effective criminal justice system. The John Howard Society helps people reintegrate into society, thereby reducing alienation, crime and recidivism.

Our mission is resolute. We want to help to create a truly effective criminal justice system – one that serves us all, that confronts crime and its causes and that fosters safer communities.  In short, we help people turn away from a life of crime. Surely, that’s what we’d all like to see.

Practically speaking, we STOP Crime Now ! TM through the multitude of programs and services that we offer to the community.  You can help us to STOP Crime Now ! TM through your donation to the John Howard Society of Sudbury.  All funds raised are used to deliver our programs and services in the Sudbury and North Bay communities.   STOP Crime Now ! TM is a registered trademark of the John Howard Society of Sudbury.

We are proud to commemorate Prisoners Justice Day every year.  It is a day where we remember the violence within the walls of incarceration and the men and women who have died because of this violence while incarcerated.  In 2024 the commemoration will be on August 10 at 10:00 am on the grounds of the Sudbury Jail.  For more information please go to the Prisoners Justice Day page on our website.

(NEW!) The John Howard Society assists people with criminal records to apply for a record suspension, formerly known as a pardon.  It is a lengthy process and can take up to two years.  If you would like more information contact the John Howard Society as soon as possible.

Some of our funders include the following and we are truly appreciative of their support.  Given that the vast majority of Canadians claim to give to charities but just less than 25% of Canadians claim their charitable donations on their tax return, you may want to make sure you know the benefits!  Your donations are important !  Please remember us.

To easily calculate the tax savings for a donation of any amount, use

For information on how our programs and services can be accessed in French contact the John Howard Society of Sudbury at the references located on our contact page.  Those programs and services that are available in French are noted with an (F) in the title of each service or program.  The John Howard Society is an inclusive agency serving all people in our community.  We have posted the Pride progress Flag on our website as a symbol that everyone is welcome to enter our agency for service.

Vianet is a proud supporter of the John Howard Society and the great work that we do all across Ontario to provide effective, just, and humane responses to crime and its causes. Vianet supports and helps in creating safer communities and to STOP Crime Now!

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June is National Indigenous History Month.  For more information please go to our Events page.