March 14, 2014 Facebook Twitter Linkedin

On Monday, March 3rd, Dr. Siu Ming Kwok, professor from the School of Social Work at King’s, appeared before the Canadian Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights to provide insight into the net growth of visible minorities in the offender population over the past five years. Based on the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s most recent annual report, the Senate is looking at what measures are being taken to work with visible minority youth to prevent or limit their interaction with the criminal justice system.

Dr. Kwok delivered his presentation to the Senate from Western University’s video conferencing. Along with other field experts from across the province, Dr. Kwok offered a critical analysis on the increase of visible minority youth offenders in the criminal justice system. Dr. Kwok’s explains that because there is no dominant theory to explain the criminal behaviours of visible minority youth, he was asked to focus on four major factors: discrimination and impoverishment, cultural self-identity crises, access to criminal opportunities, and lack of adequate support systems.

“There is an increasing diversity and complexity of prison demographics,” says Dr. Kwok. “Although Canada’s crime rate is dropping, there’s an increase in visible minorities in the system. We have to look at why this is happening; what are the causes and what can we do to improve the situation. Not only should we look into policy practice, there needs to be more diversity training to handle youth offenders in a more sensitive manner. It’s important to fund research on the matter, but we also need to understand how to implement support system programs into the communities where crime rates are high.”

A social work specialist for youth offenders in the criminal justice system, Dr. Kwok is hoping that his feedback to the Senate will instigate a change in how support systems function, focusing more on engaging the youth with their families, schools and communities.