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.