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The same justice for all?

Social participation policy sometimes has unwanted consequences, as can be seen when people with intellectual disabilities (ID) commit an offence. In such a case, is it necessary to prosecute?

Research into viable solutions and their implementation are only possible using a cross-sectoral approach.

The quantitative and qualitative data resulting from research based on case studies of individuals with ID, detained following the commission of a minor offence, and group interviews with correctional and rehabilitation services workers, lead to several observations.

First of all, the penal structure does not prevent, decrease or correct the behaviour of people at a high risk of ending up in the justice system, and the implementation of solutions adapted to the specificities of individuals with ID is hindered by the rigidity of prevailing procedures and rules. In addition, detention does not allow people with ID to reduce or eliminate the behaviour at the origin of their detention (risk of recidivism) and does not encourage their social reintegration (non-access to programs). Furthermore, the alternatives to detention (e.g. sentence suspension, probation, community work) are poorly suited to the realities of people with ID and sometimes contribute to aggravating their situation (administration of justice violations). Finally, the absence of any transfer towards appropriate social services at the time of release from the penal justice system has negative consequences on the person.

Above all, the research exposes the complexity of the problem, the heterogeneity of the case profiles and trajectories, and the difficulty in reconciling penal and rehabilitation philosophies. In the light of this complexity, research into viable solutions and their implementation are only possible using a cross-sectoral approach.


Main researcher: Céline Mercier, Université de Montréal

Original title: Nouvelle normativité sociale et déficience intellectuelle : les réponses du système pénal

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