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A research team led by a University of Alberta scholar has received nearly $2.5 million in new federal funding for a national research project aimed at reforming the Canadian justice system.

Sandra Bucerius

Sandra Bucerius

The team, headed by sociologist Sandra Bucerius and including the United Way and academic experts on the court and prison systems from across Canada, was awarded a Partnership Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada to examine systemic problems across criminal justice institutions.

“When you look at the media, the focus is mostly on police,” says Bucerius, director of the Centre for Criminological Research. “But we try to approach criminal justice as a system composed of interconnected subsystems, which include police, the courts, correctional facilities and reintegration into the community.”

The team will examine how each element of the justice system contributes both separately and together to the marginalization of populations such as Indigenous peoples, impoverished Canadians, Black Canadians and the LGBTQ2S community to create a “cumulative disadvantage in the Canadian justice system,” she says.

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Most criminologists study only one institution rather than looking at how the systems connect, she adds.

“We look at the over-representation of Indigenous prisoners, for example, but it really starts much earlier than that. Who is getting picked up by police, and who gets processed through the court system? Why do people come back?”

She points out that 50 percent of female prisoners in Canada are Indigenous, a figure that rises to 76 percent in the Edmonton Institution for Women.

Starting with an examination of Alberta and Ontario and followed by Quebec, the research will address “long-simmering concerns about police violence, pains of imprisonment, gendered and racial victimization and the denial of fundamental civil liberties,” says Bucerius.

One of the project’s main goals is to provide evidence-based reform recommendations. Other U of A scholars included in the partnership grant include sociologists Jana Grekul, Temitope Oriola, Kevin Haggerty and Justin Tetrault.

The Partnership Grants awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada are meant to “advance knowledge and understanding on critical issues of intellectual, social, economic and cultural significance.”

| By Geoff McMaster

Geoff is a reporter with the University of Alberta’s Folio online magazine. The University of Alberta is a Troy Media Editorial Content Provider Partner.

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