Understanding how the justice system can contribute to poverty

Check out these law, crime and incarceration resources to further your understanding of the issues at play

3 April 2023

From policing to courts to incarceration, Canada’s justice system can exacerbate marginalization and poverty. A lack of resources can be a barrier to addressing legal issues and at the same time having legal issues can lead to a lack of resources.

VCC is having some conversations right now about the issues at play and how we can advance policy in this area. We’ve assembled five resources to start the conversation.

Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present

Robyn Maynard 

Robin Maynard examines the past and present of anti-Blackness in Canada, covering topics like slavery, policing, gendered violence, and incarceration. This book will make you say, “I never learned that in school!” repeatedly. Maynard draws a clear line between Canada’s history and why Black Canadians are over-represented in the criminal justice system. Read this book to challenge your assumptions about the prevalence of anti-Black racism in Canada.

Indigenous Peoples and the Injustice of Justice

Interview with Laura Arndt

Read this piece by Mohawk scholar Laura Arndt, then listen to the full podcast series “Advancing Justice” from the Maytree Foundation. She writes about the systemic injustice Indigenous people experience through Canada’s justice system, focusing on the Gladue and Barton cases. Arendt explains how the justice system fails Indigenous people as both victims and offenders, contextualizing her arguments within Canada’s ongoing history of settler colonialism. If you’re not sure how the dots connect between colonialism and inequities in the justice system, read this piece.

Coming Back to Jail: Women, Trauma, and Incarceration

Elizabeth Comack

Elizabeth Comack interviewed 42 incarcerated women for this research project, which explores how experiences of trauma, colonialism, gendered violence, and poverty have shaped these women’s lives and their involvement in the criminal justice system. If you want to understand the experiences of incarcerated women as people, rather than just as data or statistics, this is an excellent book.

The Uncuffed Podcast

KALW, San Quentin State Prison and Solano Prison

This award-winning podcast is run by KALW, a radio station in San Francisco that offers audio production classes and media training in prisons. Uncuffed features the voices and lived experiences of incarcerated men in San Quentin State Prison and Solano Prison in California. “The Uncuffed podcast is a showcase for personal stories and deep roundtable conversations with the incarcerated Uncuffed producers. We also catch up with Uncuffed producers post-release, and hear from the friends and family of incarcerated people.” This show is all about sharing the humanity and vulnerability of its producers.

Are Prisons Obsolete?

Angela Y. Davis

This short read from Black feminist icon Angela Y. Davis asks: do we need to improve the prison system or abolish it entirely? Read this book with an open mind and see how it might challenge your assumptions about what prisons do and how well they serve society and individuals who are incarcerated.


The justice system can exacerbate poverty

Calgarians need the knowledge, resources and capability to understand and address their legal issues, and deserve a legal system that does not contribute to or cause poverty.