This morning as I was working, I heard on the radio a segment from CBC Radio One called “White Coat, Black Art.” The program is about the Canadian Medical System and is hosted by a medical practitioner who gives in-depth interviews and takes different perspectives of the many facets of the art of medicine. Today’s topic, a rerun, was the use of a person who would work in the hospital or medical system as “navigator/helper” who would stay with the patient who has been diagnosed with cancer.
I thought to myself that this is such a wonderful idea that why would we not have such a program for the Criminal Justice system? As I thought about this, I could count so many areas that would cut cost, incur time and resource savings and streamline the system by a good portion of what we are spending right now. There are huge parallels between the medical and justice systems that I thought this idea would be revolutionary all around.
I talked about this with a colleague of mine who currently works for the Provincial Courts in Surrey, BC. He laughed at me when I told him about the CBC program and my idea of having go-to people to work with both victims and offenders going through the justice system. His first remark was that these are two totally different systems with two totally different goals: one heals while the other punishes. He also said that with Canada moving to the political Right, that any Conservative government would quickly quash any attempt that promotes help for offenders. “In essence,” he said, “people would bulk at the idea of helping offenders when they have lawyers appointed to them…” We both know, I thought, that lawyers are sometime a liken to doctors when it comes to helping their clients: different language, white/black coat professionalism and heavy case loads, and so on. People expect that the justice system should punish as much as possible, especially if the offender is found guilty, so any added punishment is seen a possible deterrent and could likely avert recidivism.
So I mauled this over in my mind. Two different systems, two different goals. It just didn’t add up for me. I can see this mentality of making sure the offender is punished as much as possible and making his/her stay through the system unpleasant; however, the issue of treating everyone innocent until proven guilty kept leaping up in my thoughts. Lawyers can only do so much. I have seen Crown Lawyers literally pass off their clients like poker chips because of the tight scheduling and case overloads, not to mention the quick decisions that are often made between lawyers while in negotiation, all the while not even explaining to their clients what just happened. I am absolutely certain that if offenders were aware of everything that was going on in the justice system around them their decisions would be very different.
So what do you think? Should the justice system afford “go-to” people to help the offenders and victims who have very little understandings of the lawyers and court procedures that goes on in the Courts today?