Justice on Target (JOT)
Ministry of the Attorney General

The Problem

Ontario’s Criminal Justice System is one of the best in the world. Every year delegations from numerous countries and jurisdictions come to learn about Ontario’s system. An important aspect of a world-class system is a commitment to quality public service and constant improvement of public service delivery.

With an average of 600,000 criminal charges every year, a major challenge for Ontario was the increasing number of court appearances and time needed to complete a criminal charge. When Justice on Target was launched in June 2008, criminal court delay had been steadily increasing for nearly two decades. From 1992 to 2007, the average time to complete a criminal charge had grown from 115 days to 205 days. Similarly, in 1992, it took an average of 4.3 court appearances to bring a charge to completion. By 2007, the figure had grown to 9.2 court appearances, of which more than 6 were adjournments.

Simply put, the system was putting twice as many people through our courts every year, for the same number of charges in order to reach the same result. And, many of these adjournments were not only unproductive but a significant drain on the justice system’s finite resources.

A key factor in the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system is its ability to resolve matters in a fair and timely way.

The growth in court appearances and days was significantly straining the system and impacting both the people who lead and work in provincial courts every day and the people who live in Ontario and rely on an effective criminal justice system. Judiciary, Crown prosecutors, court staff, police and defence counsel were spending more time on cases that were adjourned two thirds of the time. Administrative work to support those unproductive court appearances was increasing, as was the length of time it took to move even the most simple charge forward. Victims, witnesses and persons charged experienced increasing time delays.

This presented both a tremendous challenge and opportunity for the ministry to bring all criminal justice participant groups to the same table, to work collaboratively in developing local solutions to criminal court delay and to use and refocus existing resources to reinvest back into the justice system and to strengthen the administration of justice.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The overriding objective of any criminal justice system is the fair and timely disposition of each and every case that comes before it. On June 3, 2008, Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General took action to address the upward trend in criminal court delay by launching the Justice on Target strategy. The goal was a faster and more effective criminal justice system in Ontario. A justice system that is able to:
• Resolve non-complex cases faster and more effectively;
• Help everyone involved in a case to get to decision points earlier;
• Redirect resources to serious cases and priorities such as community safety;
• Enhance public confidence in the administration of justice.

JOT took a bold approach by engaging local leaders and setting aggressive four-year targets to reduce by 30% the average number of appearances and days needed to complete a criminal case. To ensure transparency, criminal court statistics and information about local initiatives are available to the public on the Ministry’s website: http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/jot/default.asp

Recognizing local diversity (size, location, local practices, stakeholder relationships), comprehensive reviews of local practices were undertaken in each Ontario Court of Justice location. Between November 2008 and October 2010, all 57 of Ontario’s criminal courts, including satellite and remote fly-in courts, were engaged in the strategy through a phased courthouse-by-courthouse approach.

Local Leadership Teams were established at each to identify and implement new approaches to address local court delay, monitor progress and ensure sustained improvement. These teams included membership from all key justice participant groups such as Judges, Justices of the Peace, Crown Attorneys, Defence Counsel, police, Legal Aid Ontario and others. This “ground-up” approach was supported by a small multi-disciplinary central JOT Team, providing local statistics generated from court information systems as well as the results of court observations and consultations.

Every criminal court in Ontario has implemented and is now sustaining initiatives to reduce criminal court delay and participants are benefiting:
• Judiciary – less time dealing with ‘churning’ cases and more judicial time and resources available for the cases that need them the most;
• Police – less time attending unproductive court appearances and more time in the community;
• Defence – increased and earlier access to disclosure, legal aid, resolution Crowns and plea courts;
• Crown – more time available to attend to the more serious and complex cases;
• Victims and Witnesses – less time and hardship caused by unnecessary court appearances and delayed resolution;
• Accused – faster, more effective resolution of their cases; and
• Public – greater confidence in the ability of the criminal justice system to deal with cases in a timely and effective manner.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
Several attempts had been made in the past to address criminal court delay. In June 2008, then Attorney General of Ontario Chris Bentley, announced a new vision for making the criminal justice system more effective – one that involved all justice participants working together to identify, implement and sustain initiatives tailored to local community needs and challenges.

The Ministry of the Attorney General set out to develop that vision into Ontario’s first-ever results-based approach to reducing criminal court delay and improving public service in every Ontario criminal court. That transformational approach continues today under the leadership of current Attorney General John Gerretsen, Deputy Attorney General Murray Segal and Associate Deputy Minister Stephen Rhodes.

JOT provides a provincial framework for sustained engagement and collaborative effort by all justice stakeholders. Local and Regional Leadership Teams were formed, made up of representatives of local justice participant groups, including Judges, Justices of the Peace, Crown Attorneys, Defence Counsel, police, court staff, corrections, Legal Aid Ontario and other organizations. At each of Ontario’s criminal court sites, these representatives are engaged in developing, sustaining and owning initiatives at all levels: senior leadership, regional leaders, local leaders and staff.

For the first time in Ontario’s history, justice participants are addressing the issue of criminal court delay together in a way that respects their independent roles and encourages collaboration.

Mr. Justice Bruce Durno (external lead) and Director/Ministry Lead Lori Montague currently co-lead the strategy. Ms. Montague leads a dedicated JOT Implementation Team that ensures sound project governance and oversees the province-wide implementation of the strategy with justice stakeholders in local courthouses. The JOT Team works with local leaders and regional committees to identify and implement new approaches, monitor progress and ensure sustainability. Local leaders share ideas with each other, learn from experiences of their peers in other communities and implement new initiatives to suit their local needs.

Governance includes a Results Table that monitors overall progress, chaired by the Attorney General and includes the Secretary of Cabinet, representative of the Premiers Office and Ministry of Finance, the Deputy Attorney General, Deputy Ministers of Community Safety and Correctional Services and the Associate Deputy Minister. An eight-member Expert Advisory Panel composed of some of the best minds in the criminal justice field was also established to act as a sounding board for the strategy and provide system-wide expertise.

Justice on Target has led to many historic “firsts” for Ontario:
• First ever results-based approach to criminal justice in Ontario, setting system-wide goals to drive change;
• Justice stakeholder groups are working together and collaborating in a way that has never occurred before in Ontario’s history;
• First time in nearly two decades the average number of appearances needed to complete a criminal charge is consistently going down instead of up; and
• First time an initiative of the Ontario Public Service has been honoured with the top award of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC)/Deloitte Public Sector Leadership Award.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
Justice on Target is helping the people who work in Ontario's criminal courts reduce delay, get to decision points faster and complete non-complex cases more quickly. Doing so creates the capacity for justice participants to direct more attention to serious and difficult cases, and to better serve witnesses, victims and their families.

JOT ensures existing resources are used effectively, while the fairness and integrity of the criminal justice system is protected and the independence of its participants is maintained.

Aggressive targets were set to reduce the provincial average number of both court appearances and days needed to complete a criminal case by 30% over four years (June 2008 to June 2012). This is the first ever transparent, results-based approach to criminal justice. The approach included the following elements:
• Collaboration – all criminal justice participants given a voice at the table;
• Ground-up – locally developed solutions for local challenges (not “one size fits all”);
• Phased-in – rolled out in “waves” of courthouses;
• High impact – greater focus on sites and initiatives with highest impact;
• Operationally-oriented – focus on practical, workable solutions (not a study or report);
• Evidence-based – informed by statistics, court observations and consultations;
• Transparent – criminal court statistics made available to the public for the first time; and
• Integrity protected – not about affecting the decision, but getting to the decision point sooner.

Across the province, all court staff and stakeholders were invited to local launches (for larger court sites) or regional launches (for smaller court sites) to learn about the strategy and to become engaged in finding sustainable solutions to challenges in their local communities.

Justice on Target is also supported by:
• Comprehensive change management focusing on:
o Leadership;
o Culture;
o Stakeholder engagement; and
o Learning.
• Strategic communications, including a monthly newsletter, to a wide variety of people and organizations that make up Ontario’s criminal justice system to:
o Highlight results and share local best practices;
o Promote culture change in the working relationship and business practices in criminal courts;
o Share information about the progress of the strategy and leading practices developed at individual sites; and
o Encourage leadership and participation in the strategy.
• Project management to:
o Ensure the team focuses on activities with the most impact on achieving the targets;
o Integrate information across project work-streams; and
o Support the management of issues and risks that arise in the course of the project to ensure that critical challenges are addressed, expectations are managed and goals are met.

Dashboards and other analytical tools were developed to track progress towards the targets and provide the basis to understand progress at both the provincial and local level. These tools provide justice participants with the ability to measure success, compare efforts to results and determine the best use of their resources. The strategy’s various dashboards and data tools allow local leaders to evaluate the level of impact of the changes put into place and to modify as needed.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The Justice on Target strategy was implemented in five waves (groups) of courthouses. The Ministry used a targeted approach based on impact according to charge volume. Waves 1 through 4 included the Ontario Court of Justice sites with the greatest number of annual charges. Wave 5 represented 38 small to medium charge volume court locations that were engaged through a regional approach. The intent was an immediate impact on the key targets and to allow the strategy’s leaders and justice participants in later waves to benefit from lessons learned and leading practices established in preceding waves.

A brief chronology:

• June 2008 – Attorney General Chris Bentley announces the Justice on Target strategy.
• July 2008 – A JOT Expert Advisory Panel is formed to provide advice on how to move cases through the justice system faster. The panel brings together some of the best minds in the field of criminal justice.
• November/December 2008 – The Ontario Courts of Justice in Newmarket, North York and London are designated as Wave 1 “action sites”. Local Leadership Teams are formed including representatives of all local justice participant groups. These teams meet regularly and are supported by multi-disciplinary experts conducting hundreds of one-on-one and group interviews, hours of court observation, process mapping and analysis to identify initiatives to reduce delay at the local level.
• May 2009 – Leaders at the initial Action Sites identify and begin implementing a set of broad initiatives to tackle criminal court delay at the local level.
• June 2009 – Two of the province's busiest court sites, Brampton and Toronto's Old City Hall, are designated as Wave 2 action sites. Justice participants begin to adapt and build on the work done to date.
• November/December 2009 – Eight more locations are engaged as Wave 3 action sites.
• January to March 2010 – Regional Committees are formed in the West, Central West, Central East, East, Northeast and Northwest Regions to assist engaging Wave 5 action sites.
• June and September 2010 – The remaining Wave 4 action sites are engaged, adapting and learning from the best practices established to date.
• November 2010 – Justice on Target is recognized with the top 2010 Institute of Public Administration of Canada/Deloitte Public Sector Leadership Award, for the exciting and innovative work underway by justice participants.
• January 2011 – A number of Crown-led Initiatives are identified by the ministry’s Criminal Law Division and implemented province-wide, in addition to the court-wide initiatives developed by local leaders at each site.
• Today – Every criminal court of the Ontario Court of Justice is identifying, implementing or sustaining initiatives to tackle delay. Nearly 475,000 court appearances have been eliminated since the strategy was launched in 2008.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
The Justice on Target strategy was designed to engage stakeholders to identify, problem-solve and overcome the obstacles experienced in previous attempts to reduce criminal court delay. Some of these challenges included:

• Constitutional independence: Justice participants have guaranteed independent decision making discretion in an operationally interdependent system;
• Local culture: Every court has different processes, personalities and experiences;
• Nature: The criminal justice system is, by its nature, adversarial;
• Scope: There are 600,000 new criminal charges entering the system every year in 57 court sites plus satellite and fly-in courts;
• Complexity: Ontario’s legal and procedural environment, as well as the nature of cases continue to grow more complex;
• Ownership: The Ministry of the Attorney General is not the “owner” of all steps in the criminal justice system; and
• Resources: Past approaches tied to increased funding resulted in little lasting success.

The Ministry of the Attorney General developed a plan to overcome these challenges through an evidence-based, collaborative and inclusive strategy.

JOT addresses the systemic problem of criminal court delay with a completely new approach. It is the first ever results-based approach to criminal justice in Ontario, setting system-wide goals to drive change based on several principles:

• Changing the culture of the justice system and reviewing complex processes, all while respecting important principles of the justice system, the judiciary and all other participants;
• Engaging the frontlines of justice – the people who work on the ground in our criminal courts – to identify, test, and implement realistic and sustainable solutions;
• Gathering and analyzing data from interviews, courtroom observations, process mapping and criminal court statistics; and
• Recognizing that no one group is responsible for delays or needless adjournments, and no one group can act alone to fix these issues.

By bringing justice stakeholders together, by providing site-specific information about the efficiency of local processes and by supporting the implementation of local solutions, Justice on Target is leading change in Ontario’s criminal courts.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
In a challenging economic environment, the Justice on Target strategy better focuses existing justice resources to increase the effectiveness of Ontario’s justice system.

Approval was granted to the ministry to form a small Ministry Implementation Team, complemented by a major management consulting firm. In addition to project management, governance and change management, the JOT Implementation Team works with local leaders of various stakeholder groups in each courthouse to identify and implement new approaches, monitor progress and ensure sustainability of improvements. The consulting firm provides targeted expertise in the areas of systems, process-mapping and statistical analysis.

During the initial phases, the Implementation Team assigned a JOT Site Lead with experience in criminal justice process to work alongside local leaders in each courthouse. In keeping with the decision to encourage and support local solutions, the site leads worked with Local Leadership Teams as they identified challenges at their courthouse and developed and implemented more effective practices. This local approach promoted ownership and sustainment of initiatives.

JOT is not about more resources, nor is it a cost-cutting initiative. The primary focus has been practical solutions and process improvements in order to generate capacity (court time, space, person-hours and other resources).

Examples of these practical solutions include:
• Better coordinating the order and organization in which accused are brought into a courtroom has led to more efficient use of court time and reduced appearances in the bail phase of criminal cases.
• Expansion of Legal Aid offices within courthouses. In 2008, only eight court locations had an on-site Legal Aid application office. Today, 56 locations have an on-site office or Legal Aid staff available at the courthouse to process applications, reducing the need to adjourn cases because eligibility or status have not yet been determined.
• Establishing an appearance standard. An appearance standard recognizes that it would be beneficial to have a standard number of appearances for most straightforward charges in the system, after which most cases should be either set down for trial or otherwise resolved.
• Using technology to improve service and processes. Stakeholders are finding ways to make maximum use of existing video conferencing equipment, such as video pleas or scheduling private and secure consultations between Defence Counsel and in-custody accused. This recognizes that facilitating Defence Counsel discussions with in-custody clients may also reduce the number of appearances and time between appearances for in-custody accused.

These examples demonstrate how relatively simple changes using existing resources can have a significant impact on service delivery and the efficiency of processes.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
Sustainability has been built into Justice on Target from the beginning. The strategy has created a framework for stakeholders to continue building on the progress of the strategy to date. By empowering local leaders to develop solutions to local challenges, initiatives are owned, improved and sustained on-the-ground.

Sustainability is also promoted enterprise-wide through:
• Project Management and Measurement of Results
• Disciplined project management approach;
• Results Table Dashboard and bi-monthly Site-Level Dashboards of provincial criminal statistics;
• Focus on data integrity.
• Individual Accountability
• JOT-related performance measures for ministry leaders;
• Local leaders are accountability for results at the site level through locally developed and documented protocols, forms and practice directives – these are being shared across Ontario so that every location can consider adapting to their local needs.
• Transparency
• Public reporting of regional and site-level criminal court statistics and implemented initiatives;
• Rolling 12-month statistics are posted twice a year to the ministry’s website: www.ontario.ca/justiceontarget

Now in the fourth year, Ontario’s criminal courts have implemented new initiatives that are increasing effectiveness and reducing the number of appearances and days to disposition. Stakeholders continue to meet to monitor the initiatives, make necessary adjustments and to find solutions to new issues. JOT Site Leads assigned to these courts continue to provide support and to monitor success. Justice stakeholder groups continue to be consulted and engaged.

Best practices are shared province-wide so that every courthouse can consider adapting to suit their local needs. The JOT Team has arranged best practice sharing sessions, site visits and implementation guides so that every site can learn from each other.

Information and experiences are also being shared within the Ontario Public Service. For example, the Secretary of the Cabinet has used the Justice on Target strategy as an example of innovation and improved public service in a series of leadership discussions for senior managers in the Ontario Public Service throughout 2010 and 2011. The Associate Deputy Minister shared JOT’s results-based approach to sustainable change at the Conference Board of Canada’s 2011 Public Sector Transformation conference.

The ministry has also shared its experiences with JOT with other provinces in Canada (e.g. British Columbia) and with several countries, including most recently Bangladesh and Barbados.

Ministry leadership and staff are supported through written guides, skills development, talent and performance management. For example, the ministry has partnered with the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business and its Law School to deliver a leadership program for all ministry criminal court leaders.

In November 2010, Justice on Target was awarded the gold prize in the Federal/Provincial/Territorial category of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada/Deloitte Public Sector Leadership Award – the first time an initiative of the Ontario Public Service was honoured with the top award. JOT was recognized for its significance to Canadians to improve public service. Following the award, Canadian Government Executive Magazine published an article (in print and online) acknowledging this significant achievement.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
Each of Ontario’s criminal courts is now implementing and sustaining initiatives to improve service to the community. The provincial average number of appearances has fallen by nearly 8% since the strategy was launched. Non-complex cases are being resolved faster and more effectively. More than 475,000 court appearances in non-complex, non-violent cases have been eliminated since the strategy began.

For the first time in nearly 20 years, the average number of appearances needed to complete a criminal charge is going down instead of up:
• Overall, 43 out of 60 sites (72%) have improved the average number of appearances and/or average days, net bench warrant days
• 43 sites have improved the average number of appearances to disposition since the strategy was launched; 20 of these sites achieved double digit reductions
• 32 sites have improved in the average number of days net of bench warrants since the strategy was launched; 17 of these sites achieved double digit reductions.

These achievements create the capacity for justice participants to direct more attention to serious and difficult cases, and to better serve witnesses, victims and their families. Improved public service includes:

• Victims and witnesses experience less time and hardship caused by unnecessary court appearances and delays in resolving their case;
• People accused of a crime are better informed and better prepared to come to court and make decisions about how to proceed toward a resolution;
• From the first court appearance more is accomplished in a shorter amount of time, freeing up capacity (time and space) of the court to deal with the most serious and complex charges and those requiring additional attention;
• The public is more informed about the justice process, removing some of the confusion and fear inherent in contact with the criminal courts; and
• Public confidence in the justice system is enhanced.

Lessons learned include:
• Value of locally-developed solutions to meet local challenges, while learning from peers in other courts and adapting solutions.
• Concentrate on areas with the greatest impact and where you have greatest influence.
• Look for successes beyond the numbers, e.g., how an initiative improved day-to-day operations, quality of life for participants and service to the public.
• Communicate successes and share best practices many times and in many ways.
• Identify local champions and informal leaders within stakeholder groups and encourage peer-to-peer networking and sharing of ideas.

The Ministry of the Attorney General’s Justice on Target strategy has brought representatives of all justice participant groups to the same table at the local level to develop, implement and maintain lasting solutions to criminal court delay at the local level. It has created a culture of collaboration and information sharing that is unprecedented in the province’s history.

Ontario’s justice system, the cornerstone of a free and just society, is better for it.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of the Attorney General
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Lori Montague
Title:   Director and Ministry Lead  
Telephone/ Fax:   416-325-8666
Institution's / Project's Website:   www.ontario.ca/justiceontarget
E-mail:   lori.montague@ontario.ca  
Address:   700 Bay Street, 12th Floor
Postal Code:   M5G 1Z6
City:   Toronto
State/Province:   Ontario
Country:   Canada

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