Older Adults and the Justice System – News Release


New guidebook from human services, justice experts supports older adults navigating the criminal justice system

(Toronto, Feb. 3, 2020) – A new resource developed by experts in health care, social services and the justice system will help caregivers, care partners and service providers support older adults and adults with age-related conditions in navigating the justice system.

As Ontario experiences an increase in its population aged 65 and older, all areas of the criminal justice system are interacting with older adults at a more frequent rate and struggling to adapt to the needs of this vulnerable population. Older adults with mental health issues, problematic substance use or age-related conditions such as dementia often encounter challenges working through the criminal justice process, accessing necessary services in custody and finding housing upon release.

In response, the Provincial Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee (HSJCC) has released Older Adults and the Justice System: A navigational guidebook for caregivers and service providers to help caregivers and service providers of this demographic interact with police, courts, corrections and probation/parole personnel.

“Older adults and the justice system became a priority for the HSJCC Network after our members from across the human services and justice sectors began observing older adults interacting more with police, being involved in more courtrooms and being detained more frequently in correctional facilities across Ontario,” said Provincial HSJCC co-chair Sara Dias. “All areas of the justice system have felt a demographic shift and are finding difficulty meeting the needs of this population. Meanwhile, many caregivers don’t understand the intricacies of the criminal justice or mental health law systems and aren’t familiar with resources that could improve outcomes for their loved ones. This guidebook makes significant strides to change all of that.”

Older Adults and the Justice System: A navigational guidebook for caregivers and service providers outlines different age-related conditions and examines how mental health issues, substance use issues, developmental disabilities, physical health conditions and social determinants of health can create complex challenges for older adults at various points in the criminal justice system. The resource contains detailed summaries of the criminal and mental health law systems and outlines best practices for engaging with police and the courts. It also looks at challenges and available services in correctional facilities, including supportive housing options.

“Helping older adults navigate the justice system can often be a difficult and challenging experience for caregivers,” said Jeff Morgan, a case manager at One City Peterborough’s Haley House. “With this resource, caregivers and even service providers like myself now have a simplified, quick-reference tool that will provide a greater understanding of the criminal justice system and mental health laws, as well as options for support, which will allow us to more effectively assist older adults in contact with the law.”

“Understanding the ins and outs of the justice system and knowing where additional support may be available can be hard at the best of times, let alone for older adults with health complications like me,” said Cliff Strong, a resident of Haley House. “I think a guidebook that helps older adults work through dealing with justice authorities and shares services that are available is a great way to support recovery and rehabilitation.”

This guidebook was prepared by the Provincial HSJCC, with support from the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario Division. Project guidance and expertise was provided by the Older Adults and the Justice System Project Advisory Committee, which includes representation from the Ministries of Health, Attorney General and Solicitor General, as well as agencies in the community mental health, addictions, social services and criminal justice sectors.

About the Provincial Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee

The Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee (HSJCC) Network was established in response to a recognized need in the province to co-ordinate resources and services and plan more effectively for people who are in conflict with the law. Priority consideration is made for people with a serious mental illness, developmental disability, acquired brain injury, substance use issue, and/or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. The HSJCCs are a co-operative effort of the Ministries of the Attorney General, Children, Community and Social Services, Health, and the Solicitor General. The Provincial HSJCC functions as a planning body, supporting the efforts of the full HSJCC Network.


For more information, contact:

Justin Dickie

Communications Officer

Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario

T: 416-977-5580, ext. 4175

E: jdickie@ontario.cmha.ca

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