How we identified interventions to reduce wrongful convictions in the Canadian legal system

In a team of four, we applied systems thinking to understand and improve the way the Canadian legal system handles wrongful convictions.

Challenge

In 2012 alone 2,470 wrongful convictions were reported in Canada. We wanted to find out why and what we could do to change it.

Approach

First, we conducted expert interviews with a number of defence lawyers and the founder of Toronto’s Innocence Project.

A responsibility assignment matrix of the stakeholders informed our engagement with the experts. We continued to iterate and validate our findings with the experts.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

Participatory design research was done using stimuli for participants to map out their interpretations of real wrongful conviction cases.

The more we learned, the more we mapped. We turned our data into knowledge by continuously iterating and seeking more information. After participatory design research, many interviews, literary review, and validation sessions with subject matter experts, we felt confident enough to zoom out from the system to see the bigger picture.

Image for post
Image for post

Value

A Synthesis Map was produced after an iterative process to visualize the complex process and the relationships within the Canadian legal system.

Intervention points were marked to help improve the way the Canadian legal system handles wrongful convictions.

Image for post
Image for post

Intervention points were clearly marked and a legend was provided at the start of the map for ease of reading.

Image for post
Image for post

Stakeholders that have influence on each phase of the map appear at the top. A variation in scale shows their relative influence on the process.

Image for post
Image for post

A visual metaphor was used to represent the current adversarial system.

  • Prosecution and defence getting ready for a bout.
  • Media putting the spotlight on the contest.
  • Government controls prosecution and defence using strings. This shows how much control they have in the system. It is, in fact, a self-serving system with the prosecution significantly more likely to be successful.
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
  • A flowchart visually representing the complexity of the Criminal Justice System is the central piece of the map.
  • Three different kinds of roads were used to show the variation in speed of each phase. Time, affluence and complexity of the crime were factored in.
  • The three main phases of the system were marked with loops and information related to each section was laid out in close proximity.
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

The result was compiled into a 10x8 foot visual. It can be read digitally by clicking the document below.

Role: Equal contributor

Team Size: 4 grad students

Time Frame: 4 months

Client: Project during Master of Design Program

Methods:
Literature review
Horizon scanning
Expert interviews
Generative research
Causal relationship mapping”
Systems Mapping

Illustrations by Nandini Krishnamurthy

Design by Jyotish Sonowal

designs experiences, solves complex problems, fights for social justice, nerds out on AI ethics & futures

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store