By Gerald V. Paul
One of the co-writers of the 2008 Roots of Youth Violence report is calling for the creation of a permanent czar-like bridge builder who could sit above the more than a dozen ministries and have a stake in youth: Stemming the tide of imprisonment by race.
This is a part of the solution in answer to data revealing Black youth in Ontario are far more likely to spend time in jail.
Alvin Curling, former MPP and Speaker of the Ontario Legislature, currently serving as a special adviser to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, stressed that there are enough resources in Ontario to move towards solutions.
“You cannot arrest your way into a peaceful society. What you have is a huge institution called jails and then the cost is enormous, and then what do you do with the people?You wear out people until they die?” he asked.
Experts say one way to reduce overrepresentation in jails of Blacks would be an overhaul of the justice system itself, as suggested in the 1995 report.
It was noted that study after study has shown that investing in families, education and mentally and physically healthy communities is less costly than the tab for sick, poor communities in terms of health costs, opportunities lost, policing, courts and jails.
Getting out early is tougher in a parole system that is designed to count as negatives a host of factors that are common among disadvantaged groups.
Federally, longer sentences for serious crimes and life sentences for murder also contribute to the overrepresentations.
Disproportionate sentences for similar crimes for Blacks also come into play, says Toronto criminal lawyer Reid Rusonik.
“Black people go to jail for possessing and selling crack cocaine. White people who sell and use crack powder rarely do. White people get all of the discharges and conditional sentences for illegal possession of firearms,” Rusonik said.
Also, less than 1 per cent of the general youth population suffers from post–traumatic stress disorder. One in four youth in custody displayed PTSD symptoms.