To Protect or To Punish: Illuminating Pathways from Care to Criminalization
Bail / Judicial Interim Release , Child Welfare , Criminal Justice , "Crossover" Youth , 'Aging Out' of Child Welfare
This dissertation undertakes an in-depth analysis of the compounding effects of the child welfare and criminal justice systems on young adults (ages 18 to 24) in Ontario. The research is informed by qualitative, critical race methodologies, including semi-structured interviews with 25 young adults who have been involved in both systems; 10 practicing lawyers in Ontario; and 10 Youth- in-Transition Workers. The analysis and findings are presented in two academic papers and one public policy report. The first manuscript uses an intersectional framework to uncover reasons why racialized children and youth are overrepresented in the child welfare and criminal justice systems; findings reveal race-based differences exist in the treatment of accused individuals who have been in care and experience mental illness in the early stages of the legal process, from arrest to bail. The second manuscript explores understandings of risk in bail courts and uncovers ways this concept functions as an organizing principal. This analysis illustrates how care status comes to be identified as a risk factor. Together these manuscripts demonstrate ways that risk-thinking fails to account for the particular conditions, circumstances, and contexts of youth leaving care, to youths’ disadvantage. The third manuscript is a public policy report that addresses gaps in public knowledge by synthesizing existing information about the adverse outcomes experienced by youth leaving care in five areas: education; employment, poverty, and income support; housing and homelessness; criminalization; and mental and physical health and wellbeing. Using this information, recommendations focus on ways to disrupt pathways from care to criminalization. As a complete work, this dissertation analyzes ways that race impacts the experiences of youth leaving care in the criminal justice system, examines understandings of risk in bail courts, and highlights pathways from care to criminalization.