Plea courts are essential hubs for the management of everyday criminal infractions. They process standard criminalized incidents (small thefts, minor instances of physical violence and administration of justice offences).

“Research on courtroom environments suggest high levels of discretion and inconsistency in everyday practices,” says Nicolas Carrier, an associate professor and director of the Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Carrier has received a SSHRC Insight grant worth $85,852 over 4 years for “McJustice? Plea Courts and the Punishment of Standard Criminalized Incidents in Ontario,” a unique, interdisciplinary project that explores the everyday experiences of a high-volume plea court.

“Despite the centrality of plea courts in the criminalization process, no research exists that explores the plea court as a social process,” says Carrier. “While insights have been derived from quantitative studies and some legal studies on sentencing, our ethnographic study of the plea courts in Ottawa aims to answer fundamental questions around how punishment is situationally produced, enacted and rationalized.”

The project will produce descriptions and interpretations of the complex social settings of criminal justice on standard criminalized incidents and document and analyze legal communications towards those individuals penalized. The project will look at how the law communicates about the nature of cases, to the accused and about punitive dispositions.

“Our project will involve 12 months of field observation conducted over a two-year period, including interviews with a range of stakeholders. Significant opportunities will be given to graduate and undergraduate students.”

Friday, June 18, 2021 in , ,
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