Justice on Target (JOT)
Ministry of the Attorney General

The Problem

The overriding objective of any criminal justice system is the fair and timely disposition of each and every case that comes before it. Ontario’s criminal justice system was slowing down as backlog in courts increased and criminal cases took longer to complete.

When Justice on Target (JOT) was launched in June 2008, the number of court appearances and time needed to complete a criminal charge 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.

Simply put, the system was taking twice as long to resolve cases in order to reach the same result. Many of these adjournments in court were not only unproductive but a significant drain on the justice system’s finite resources.

The growth in court appearances and days was significantly straining the system and, with nearly 600,000 new criminal charges every year, the situation was not sustainable.

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. There were more people in jail accused of a crime than there were people who had been actually convicted of a criminal offence.

The importance of reducing delay is outlined in section 11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which provides for the right to be tried within a reasonable time. Criminal matters that exceed the legislated standards may be stayed.

These circumstances presented both a tremendous challenge and opportunity. Numerous initiatives and pilots had been previously launched and studies were commissioned by various governments, organizations and institutions, but these had little or no lasting impact on criminal court delay.

The ministry responded by developing an innovative and ground-breaking strategy to bring all criminal justice participant groups to the same table, to work collaboratively in developing local solutions and new ways of moving criminal cases through the system faster and more effectively. That strategy is called Justice on Target.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
Justice on Target is the ministry’s ongoing strategy to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system. The overall objectives are:
• To resolve non-complex cases faster and more effectively;
• To redirect resources to serious cases and justice priorities; and
• To enhance public confidence in the administration of justice.

In its initial phase, JOT took a bold approach by engaging local leaders in every criminal court and setting aggressive provincial targets to reduce delay, and encourage innovation and change. Qualitative and quantitative results are reported and progress is tracked through: Dashboards, a Charge Sorting Tool, Progress Reports and Project Plans.

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.Every criminal court is now implementing or sustaining initiatives to reduce criminal court delay. As a result:
• For the first time in two decades, both the provincial average number of appearances and days needed to complete a criminal charge went down instead of up (reductions of 8.1% and 6.6% respectively).
• Nearly 700,000 court appearances have been eliminated since the strategy was launched.
• More than half of all charges were being completed within 120 days.

Recently released information from Statistics Canada shows that Ontario leads all other provinces in the rate of improvement in reducing criminal court delay. Ontario’s median days to dispose of a criminal case in adult court (105) is among the lowest of the largest provinces and below the national median.

Now in a new phase, JOT has refined how progress is measured by moving from across-the-board reduction targets to benchmarks that take into account case complexity. Ontario is the first jurisdiction in Canada to use this approach. The benchmarks establish a general number of appearances and days for most cases in the system:
o Five appearances and 90 days for less complex cases
o Ten appearances and 240 days for more complex cases
o Nine appearances and 180 days for cases with combined provincial and federal charges.

Using benchmarks as a “yardstick” to measure the impact of change, every court will have its own goal for a percentage of cases to meet the benchmarks in each of the case categories. Regional court leaders have been engaged to establish these local goals.
One of the guiding principles is an expectation of continuous and sustainable improvement.
The strategy continues to benefit all criminal justice participants, including:
• 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, resolution Crowns and timely discussions with clients;
• Crowns – 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 administration of justice.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The Attorney General of Ontario launched the Justice on Target strategy in June 2008. The strategy included four-year targets to reduce by 30% the provincial average number of appearances and days needed to complete a criminal case.

The Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) set out to achieve those targets with Ontario’s first-ever results-based approach to reducing criminal court delay – one that involved all justice participants working together to identify, implement and sustain initiatives tailored to local community needs and challenges.

While JOT is led by MAG, it is a shared commitment between the justice ministries and other key justice participant groups. 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.

Senior ministry staff and a Superior Court justice co-lead the strategy. A dedicated JOT Team ensures sound project governance and oversees the province-wide implementation of the strategy 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.

An Expert Advisory Panel (EAP) provides advice based on members’ fields of expertise in the criminal justice system. The panel is composed of senior-level representatives from all key justice participant groups, largely those with decision-making authority.

For the transition to the current phase of the strategy a Metrics Table was created to look at the best way of measuring progress moving forward, and then report to the EAP. This group is comprised of experienced and knowledgeable experts representing all sectors of the criminal justice system.

A Bail Experts Table composed of technical experts from each key justice participant group has also been formed to identify and analyze issues and focus on finding and implementing collaborative and innovative solutions to make the bail phase more effective and efficient across the province. The table will consult with stakeholders to identify best practices and barriers to improvement, and provide recommendations to the EAP.

JOT is changing the culture of the justice system, reviewing complex processes and ensuring existing resources are used efficiently and effectively, all while respecting important principles of the justice system. The fairness and integrity of the system is protected, and the independence of its participants, including judiciary, is maintained.

(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 ensuring Ontario’s criminal justice system is more effective and efficient – improving service to the public and enhancing public confidence in the system.

The key to the strategy’s success is its local and collaborative approach. Independent criminal justice participants work together to find solutions to delay in every court in the province. The multi-stakeholder Local Leadership Teams identify and validate key issues and test initiatives locally. Local leaders also share leading practices and new ideas between sites and across the province.

The approach includes the following elements:
• Collaboration – all criminal justice participant groups are 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 the 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;
• Integrity protected – not about affecting the decision, but getting to the decision point sooner; and
• Promotion of continuous improvement – Regional leaders building on success and determining achievable goals.

Justice on Target is also supported and driven by:
• Comprehensive change management focusing on:
o Leadership;
o Culture;
o Stakeholder engagement; and
o Learning.
• Strategic communications 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 goals;
o Integrate information across project work-streams; and
o Support the management of issues and risks that arise in the course of the strategy to ensure that critical challenges are addressed, expectations are managed and goals are met.

Dashboards and other analytical tools track 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 data tools allow local leaders to evaluate the level of impact of the changes put into place, identifies deficiencies, and allows them to modify as needed.

The strategy is helping the people who work in Ontario's criminal courts get to decision points faster and complete non-complex cases more quickly. Doing so reduces criminal court delay and creates the capacity for justice participants to direct more attention to serious and difficult cases, and to better serve witnesses, victims and their families.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The first phase of the Justice on Target strategy was implemented in five waves (groups) of courthouses 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. This allowed the strategy’s leaders and justice participants in later waves to benefit from lessons learned and leading practices established in preceding waves.

The second phase of the strategy is underway now, including refined areas of focus such as bail, disclosure, effective use of technology, and using a refined approach to measurement. Regional Leaders remain engaged to determine priorities and goals, and to continue implementing and sustaining more effective processes in Ontario’s criminal courts.

A brief chronology:

• June 2008 – Then 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.
• June 2009 to September 2010 – Every court site of the Ontario Court of Justice is engaged in the strategy, with each new wave of sites adapting and building on the work done 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.
• December 2011 to June 2012 – Ontario’s criminal courts continue identifying, implementing and sustaining new and more effective processes. Innovative ideas and leading practices are shared. Nearly 700,000 criminal court appearances are eliminated since the strategy was launched.
• June 2012 – Noting the benefits of the strategy, Attorney General John Gerretsen announces the Justice on Target strategy will continue beyond June 2012, with a renewed approach to measuring progress.
• September 2012 – Criminal court statistics from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012 show that the average number of appearances and days needed to complete a criminal charge province-wide have been reduced by 8.1 and 6.6 per cent respectively. Following consultations, the strategy establishes general benchmarks that take into account a case’s complexity.
• November to December 2012 – Regional Committees, including leaders of all justice participant groups, determine specific goals for each court, using the benchmarks as a “yardstick” to measure progress.

(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 approximately 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.

JOT was designed to address the systemic problem of criminal court delay with a completely new approach, and sets system-wide goals to drive change based on several principles:

• Changing the culture 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.

One of the largest obstacles in the initial phase of the Justice on Target strategy was the target set to reduce average days and appearances by 30%. With these averages increasing for the past 20 years, such an extreme reduction in only 4 years was ambitious, and was seen by many as unattainable. While JOT did not meet the target reductions, as of June 2012:
• 44 sites had an improvement in the average appearances to disposition, with 16 sites reducing by 10% or more; and
• 36 sites reduced average days to disposition, with 25 sites having reductions of 10% or more.

By setting such initial aggressive targets, JOT achieved what no previous program, study, or initiative in Ontario had done before: the statistics are now going down instead of up. The targets were ambitious enough to make people realize that real, large changes were necessary. Instead of seeking short-term goals, the strategy aimed for long-term sustained changes in court culture.

The JOT Team has built upon the achievements toward the initial targets to continue to improve and refine the strategy going forward. By bringing justice stakeholders together, by providing site-specific information about the efficiency of local processes, and by supporting the implementation of local solutions and local goals, Justice on Target continues to lead 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 is ensuring the most effective use of existing justice resources, while reducing criminal court delay and improving public service. The resources allocated for the strategy are small compared to the results achieved.

The Government of Ontario approved the ministry’s plan to form a small Implementation Team, complemented by a major management consulting firm (to provide systems and process mapping and statistical analysis expertise) during the initial phase. Today the JOT team consists of 25 legal and non-legal staff with a range of relevant expertise such as project management, governance and change management and criminal justice field experience. The team works with local leaders of various stakeholder groups in each courthouse to identify and implement new approaches, track and monitor progress and ensure sustainability of improvements.

During the initial phase, the JOT Team assigned a Site Lead with experience in criminal justice to work alongside local leaders in each courthouse. These ministry staff 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. Today, Regional Coordinators oversee the sites and help guide, track progress and drive sustainable change.

New initiatives continue to be implemented as innovative ideas are shared and leading practices are established. 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, but are not limited to:
• Streamlined intake process. Some local leaders have set a timeline or general number of appearances by which straightforward matters are either resolved or set for trial.
• Better coordinating the order and organization in which accused are brought into a courtroom. For example, many sites have achieved 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, 57 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.
• Making better use of existing technology. Stakeholders are implementing video plea, bail and remand courts or scheduling private and secure consultations between defence counsel and in-custody accused through use of video conferencing or other technology.
• Giving people more information sooner so that they can make decisions sooner. Many sites have created forms handed out to accused at the time of arrest, or are conducting orientation sessions to help people better prepare for court.

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 the Justice on Target strategy. Criminal court leaders are empowered to develop their own solutions to local challenges by the strategy’s collaborative “ground up” approach. They continue to implement change while benefiting from the experience of others. Regional Coordinators continue to provide support, monitor success, and are actively involved in sustainability planning.

Best practices are shared province-wide so that every courthouse can consider adapting them 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.

The measuring and monitoring of the impact of change is promoting continuous improvement in Ontario’s criminal justice system.

Sustainability is also promoted enterprise-wide through:
• Project Management and Measurement of Results
• Disciplined approach to track and guide focused improvement;
• Bi-monthly Site-Level Dashboards, and focus on data integrity of provincial criminal statistics to inform and present reliable snapshots of provincial progress.
• Individual Accountability
• JOT-related performance measures for ministry leaders, communicated through directives and learning sessions;
• Local leaders are accountable for results at the site level through locally developed and documented protocols, forms and practice directives.
• Transparency
• Public reporting of regional and site-level criminal court statistics on the ministry’s website: www.ontario.ca/justiceontarget

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

Information and experiences are shared within the Ontario Public Service:
• The Secretary of the Cabinet used JOT as an example of innovation and improved public service in a series of leadership discussions for senior managers throughout 2010 and 2011.
• The Associate Deputy Minister shared the strategy’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 JOT experiences with other provinces in Canada (e.g. British Columbia) and with several countries, including: Bangladesh, Barbados, and most recently Mexico and Finland.

The Drummond Report, issued in February 2012, cited the Justice on Target strategy as an example of an evidence-based approach to achieve better outcomes, and recommended its expansion to other areas of the justice system. British Columbia’s Justice Reform Initiative recommends a similar approach, with system-wide performance measures for timelines and initiatives aimed at earlier resolution of criminal cases. In addition, JOT has been recognized nationally and internationally for its positive impact on public service:
• In November 2010, the JOT strategy was nationally recognized with a Gold 2010 IPAC/Deloitte Public Sector Leadership Award; and
• In October 2012, the Ontario Bar Association’s Justice Effectiveness Task force delivered its preliminary findings to the Attorney General, including a recommendation that the ministry continue implementing the JOT strategy.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The Justice on Target strategy is directly responsible for the implementation of process and cultural improvements in Ontario’s criminal courts. A longstanding trend of increasing delay has been reversed. Public service has improved:
• 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;
• Public confidence in the justice system is enhanced.

Following the Attorney Generals’ commitment to continue the strategy, the JOT Team is modifying its approach based on feedback received during consultations with justice sector leaders. JOT staff are working with regional leaders to identify regional priorities, which thus far include (but are not limited to): increasing and improving the use of video in courtrooms (especially for bail), examining and addressing the trial collapse rate, implementing a streamlined intake process, and increasing Direct Accountability referrals.

Direct Accountability recognizes that low-risk offenders can be held accountable for their actions within their own communities. Through JOT, the program was expanded from 8 sites in 2007 to province-wide. In 2011, Direct Accountability resulted in $786,238 in direct restitution to victims, and 86,345 hours of community service were performed.

Consultations have also resulted in refinements to how progress is measured, moving from across the board targets to a benchmark approach that takes case complexity into account.

A summary of other lessons learned during the course of the strategy include, but are not limited to:
• 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.
• Identify local champions and informal leaders within stakeholder groups and encourage peer-to-peer networking and sharing of ideas.
• Setting targets must take into account the unique circumstances in every case and court site, and should utilize the expertise of justice stakeholders involved in driving improvements.

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. It has created a culture of collaboration and information sharing that is unprecedented in the province’s history.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of the Attorney General
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Lori Montague
Title:   Director & 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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