Evaluating the Protection of Rights for Youth with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in the Justice System
Child & Youth Studies professor and youth justice specialist, Dr. Christine Goodwin-De Faria conducts pivotal pilot project
Dr. Christine Goodwin-De Faria, a faculty member with Child & Youth Studies at Trent University Durham GTA, is working to ensure that the rights of young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are protected when involved in the justice system.
“This study builds on my passion for youth justice,” says Professor Goodwin-De Faria, regarding her new pilot project: Evaluating Legal Protections for Justice-Involved Youth with Disabilities. “Although youth with IDD are overrepresented in the justice system, we know very little about how they experience the system in Canada and the extent to which their rights are protected.”
Effective measurement and protection
To evaluate effective protection of their rights in the justice system, Prof. Goodwin-De Faria’s research involves interviews with justice professionals about their work with justice-involved youth with IDD.
“This will shed light on their understandings of IDD; how they apply the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) in their work; the challenges that they face in supporting youth with IDD; and ultimately how the justice system can be improved to more effectively protect youth with IDD,” she explains.
Contributing to youth justice
Through the project, Prof. Goodwin-De Faria will also gain insight into whether rights and other protections outlined in the YCJA and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, are applied in practice for youth with IDD.
“My objective is to also learn about knowledge gaps that justice professionals have about IDD. Without appropriate justice responses to youth with IDD, this population cannot effectively access justice or participate meaningfully in their case.”
“Little is known about how the system protects youth with IDD in practice,” states Prof. Goodwin-De Faria. “This research contributes to youth justice literature.”
This study will inform recommendations to promote developmentally appropriate responses.
Student insight and involvement
Funds provided through the Office of Research & Innovation at Trent by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Explore Grant will support a research assistant to conduct interviews and assist with transcription and data analysis.
Students involved in the project, will learn how disability is conceptualized and operationalized in the youth criminal justice system, and gain insight into the work of youth justice professionals. They will acquire hands-on research experience by conducting qualitative interviews, transcribing, and engaging in data analysis.
“The opportunity to gain research skills is important for students,” observes Prof. Goodwin-De Faria. “Students will have an exciting opportunity be involved as research assistants and learn about the entire research process.”
The opportunity to speak directly with professionals who work in the justice system is key.
“Consistent with the research that takes place at Trent Durham, this research is interdisciplinary in nature, drawing on youth studies, criminology, disability and human rights. It also provides an opportunity to engage with community members and include their voices to co-construct and pursue knowledge.”
Learn more about Child and Youth Studies at Trent.