FASD & the Justice System

From the point of arrest onward, crown and defence may want to consider the possibility of diverting an accused with FASD to the community or a program where he or she can obtain appropriate supports and interventions.

Mentally ill offenders have increasingly had their cases referred to other programs that offer rehabilitation services instead of incarceration. “Problem-solving courts are specialized tribunals established to deal with specific problems, often involving individuals who need social, mental health or substance abuse treatment services.” (Chartrand, L. 2003). One example is the

Toronto Mental Health Court
, where solutions may include linkages to mental health, housing, employment, or other services that may ameliorate the conditions that caused the criminal behavior.” (Sokolov, 2009).  Commentators and researchers are finding a growing interest in problem-solving courts and therapeutic jurisprudence among criminal justice professionals.  (Chartrand, L. 2003; Cox, L. 2008).

Another example is the Community Council Program in Toronto which diverts Aboriginal offenders from the criminal justice system and brings them before their own community.  Commonly diverted offences include fail to appear or comply, obstructing police or justice, property offences, victimless crimes and offences against the person.  “The program focuses on the offender rather than the offence.  The idea is that the community knows best how to reach Aboriginal offenders, and help avoid the revolving door of the dominant justice system, which takes most people from the street to jail and back again.” (Anderson D., 2008).

The success of diversion for offenders with FASD will depend on:

  • Community understanding and support for alternative processes
  • Detailed, easy to understand and highly supervised agreements.