Location, location, location: Examining the geography of justice for victims and perpetrators of violence

sshrcThis five-year project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s Insight program. The Principal Investigator is Dr. Myrna Dawson.

Project Description: Little attention is given to variation in official responses to crime across Canadian jurisdictions despite recognition that courts operate in distinct environments that impact how cases are processed and disposed. Understanding what groups are affected, where and why is integral to ensuring consistency in access to justice for victims and defendants. More theoretical development in sociology of law and punishment is also needed to link multilevel determinants to identify how responses may be embedded in and shaped by case, court and community characteristics. To meet these overarching objectives, the proposed study has four sub-objectives: (1) To document jurisdictional patterns in case processing and dispositions by characteristics of the victims, their accused, and the incidents; (2) To document jurisdictional patterns in case processing/dispositions by characteristics of the courts and the broader communities in which they operate; (3) To identify associations among particular types of cases, court sites or communities that may help explain identified jurisdictional variations; and, finally, (4) To determine if there have been changes over time in these jurisdictional patterns that parallel legislative and policy transformations. The continued absence of systematic Canadian court data allowing researchers to link case characteristics to punishments has so far prevented such research. In the Canadian context, the importance of the above research is demonstrated by a 2011 special issue of the Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice which highlighted the lack of progress in Canadian criminal justice research. Contributors to this special issue argued that many problems identified by the Canadian Sentencing Commission in the 1980s remain true today with few changes made beyond some modest reforms introduced in 1996.

Related references:

Dawson, M. 2017. Intimacy, geography and justice. Chapter 15 in Reading Sociology, edited by P. Albanese, L. Tepperman, and E. Alexander. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Dawson, M. and D. Sutton. 2017. Similar sentences, similar crimes? Using deep sample analysis to examine the comparability of crimes and punishments by victim-defendant relationship. International Journal of Crime, Law and Justice 49: 58-70.

Dawson, M. 2016. Punishing femicide: Criminal justice responses to the killing of women over four decades. Current Sociology 64(7): 996-1016.

Dawson, M. 2012. Intimacy, homicide, and punishment: Examining court outcomes over three decades.  Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology 45(3): 400-422.

Dawson, M. Intimacy, gender and homicide: The validity and utility of common stereotypes in law. 2016. Chapter 3 in Gender, Murder and Responsibility: An International Perspective, edited by K. Fitz-Gibbons and S. Walklate (Routledge).