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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Jail Not the Answer for Offenders with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Says Canadian Bar Association

A Canadian legal group is calling for alternative to incarceration sentencing guidelines to better deal with offenders coming before the court with fetal alcohol syndrome.

The Canadian Bar Association is urging the federal government to develop new sentencing guidelines to better serve offenders with fetal alcohol syndrome brain injury.

A spokesperson for the lawyer’s group explained that the current punitive legal system is one that is based on deterrence by threat of punishment – and it’s a system that doesn’t work well for people with brain injuries that may not readily learn from their mistakes or have the capacity to resist impulsive behaviors.

An estimated 1.9% of the population suffer from fetal alcohol related brain injury, but the disorder is thought to be much more prevalent in the aboriginal community, a group that sees it itself grossly overrepresented in the prison system at 17% of the total inmate population.

The bar association president elect, Rod Snow, commented on their recommendation, saying, “Our sentencing is premised on certain assumptions. That people learn from their mistakes. That deterrence works…(but when it comes to people with fetal alcohol disorder) the science is telling us these assumptions are not necessarily the case.”

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