The Manitoba government’s criminal justice system modernization strategy will help end cycles of crime, create safer communities and ensure timely access to justice for Manitobans, Justice Minister and Attorney General Heather Stefanson announced.
“Over the last decade, our province has seen high crime and incarceration rates, little focus on reducing cycles of crime and a continued overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples within the justice system,” said Stefanson. “The lack of progress on these significant issues has resulted in Manitobans losing confidence in the criminal justice system. Manitoba Justice has been working tirelessly to review the criminal justice system to identify opportunities to improve services and outcomes while restoring public confidence. Through our strategic plan to modernize the criminal justice system, we will improve safety in our communities, ensure more timely access to justice for victims and make necessary progress on addressing the causes of crime.”
The criminal justice system modernization strategy is the result of an internal review that found that Manitoba has the highest adult incarceration rate among provinces with high violent crime and recidivism rates. The review also found that criminal matters take far too long to move through the court system, delaying justice for too many victims in Manitoba, said Stefanson.
In response, the criminal justice system modernization strategy commits the Manitoba government to significant change at every level of the criminal justice system. To stay accountable to Manitobans, the minister added that beginning in 2019, Manitoba Justice will report annually on key performance indicators.
Stefanson noted there are four essential components to the strategy:
- Preventing crime through strategic intervention and increased use of community mobilization programs in partnership with law enforcement. Manitoba will also work collaboratively with community stakeholders, law enforcement, and all levels of government to address mental health and addictions challenges that contribute to crime.
- Focusing resources on the most serious criminal cases by increasing the appropriate use of direct indictments and making prompt decisions about whether a matter should proceed in the traditional criminal justice system or if it would be better handled through other means.
- More effectively using restorative justice to hold less-serious offenders accountable to victims and address the root causes of their criminal behaviour outside the traditional criminal justice system. These approaches help repair the harm done to victims while advancing the mission of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
- Responsibly reintegrate offenders back into society through a combination of intensive probation supervision and community supports to ensure offenders have employment, education and housing opportunities upon their release. This will reduce recidivism and make our communities safer.
“We are pleased that Manitoba has shown its commitment to restorative justice in their strategic plan for the criminal justice system,” said Julia Robson, executive director, Onashowewin Justice Circle. “When used effectively, restorative justice programs place individuals on a better and healthier path in their lives, and help to repair the harm that crime causes families and communities.”
“Community mobilization projects that facilitate partnerships between government, police, school divisions, child and family services, and community based programs improve the safety and well-being of communities,” said Heather Leeman, executive director, Block-by-Block Community Safety and Well-being Initiative. “We are very pleased to see this commitment to meaningful crime prevention from the Manitoba government.”