Our Justice System: Discussed

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Please watch the following video: 

Naomi Nichols: Young People’s Knowledge

If we want young people to re-enter communities and not re-engage in criminal activity, it is imperative that the police advising youth and making decisions about their futures have a clear sense of how the world works from the standpoints of the young people they are serving. Too often, decisions are made by people who fail to grasp the cumulative impacts of racism, poverty, food and housing insecurity, school failure and pervasive police presence in the lives of youth.

To really understand the links between a young person’s involvement in the justice system and his or her experiences of housing and homelessness, one needs to understand what it’s like to grow up in neighbourhoods that are shaped by housing insecurity, poverty, criminality, and pervasive negative interactions with the police – partly because these are the contextual factors, shaping the likelihood that a young person will come into conflict with the law in the first place, but also because these are the very life circumstances awaiting a young person during re-entry.

Service providers and decision makers also need to understand how the various systems impacting youth wellbeing interconnect. Nowhere is this more evident than for youth in conflict with the law.

What are we do to change this reality?

Moving Forward

we would be well-served by treating young people as knowledgeable experts of their own lives and heeding what they have to tell us. They know the system is broken, and they can point to the places where institutional interventions do more harm than good.

From here, we must do the hard work of creating, testing and continually re-adjusting our interventions, such as the systematic processes of exclusion and neglect (e.g., the racism, gender-based violence, homo/transphobia, classism, colonialism), which create and sustain the instabilities at the root of criminal offending, are addressed.

Pragmatically, this looks like the following:

·      Monitoring the race, class and gender based outcomes of particular systemic interventions to reveal and address disproportionalities

·      Engaging in participatory knowledge-to-action cycles (or research-driven feedback loops) with youth to design and evaluate interventions, which reflect the actual conditions of their lives

·      Creating and funding equality and root-cause oriented government programs, which give legs to policy ang legislation, which in their present state fail to create positive changes in young people’s lives.


Over the last several weeks, The Listening Project has worked with Naomi Nichols to connect Naomi’s research with the videos that we created for a video mini-series called: Our Justice System: The Story of the Impossible? In doing this, we demonstrated the vast similarities in the experience that young people are having across Canada. Furthermore, we unpacked Our Justice System to answer the question: What can we do to change this reality? Thank you so much to Naomi for sharing your experiences working alongside young people and being The Listening Projects FIRST guest!


As always, we encourage you to share, comment and tell us your thoughts and learnings!

If you or anyone you know would like to share their story and experience, please contact us at listeningproject@thedoorway.ca