Ontario Judge gives light sentence to Black offender citing systemic racism
Ontario Superior Court Justice Shaun Nakatsuru is garnering attention for noting systemic anti-Black racism in a lenient sentence to a Black offender who arrested on gun offenses. This is Nakatsuru’s second time to cite systemic racism in a legal sentence. Previously, he gave a light sentence to Jamaal Jackson, who was also charged with unauthorized firearm possession.
Kevin Morris, a young Black man, was arrested in 2014 by police who were responding to a call about a home invasion. After his arrest, Morris, 22 at the time, was given a 1-year sentence for unauthorized gun possessions.
In a lengthy decision on Sept. 11, Nakatsuru writes, “The tide of fear in our communities rises and falls with the tragedies that come with gun violence. My role is to give expression to that fear. To condemn the crime and those who do it. But it is not my role to give in to that fear. No matter how strongly it seizes the community’s psyche.”
According to Vice News, Morris’ lawyers asked Nakatsuru to consider the “disproportionate jailing of Black offenders.” So, he took into account reports such as the “Expert Report on Crime, Criminal Justice and the Experience of Black Canadians in Toronto, Ontario” to support his opinion that systemic racism is a necessary factor for the lenient sentence.
Nakatsuru continues, “Reason must control emotion in sentencing. Because in our system, a sentence is not just about the crime. It must be also about the offender. It must be about the particular facts of the case.”
In final words, Nakatsuru writes, “The young man who makes the choice to pick up a loaded illegal handgun will not likely be a product of a private school upbringing who has the security of falling back upon upper middle-class family resources. Rather, he is likely to be a product of oppression, despair, and disadvantage. Likely he is someone who cannot turn his life around on a dime even if he wanted to. In short, he is you, Mr. Morris.”
While lighter sentences of Black offenders in an anti-Black society are preferable, they do not address the criminalization of Black people directly. It’s important to note that this sentence still uses and validates the same anti-Black structures to imprison marginalized people. Since Judge Nakatsuru pointed out the various ways systemic racism has oppressed Black people, the only sustainable solutions would include removing the hyperpresence of police in poor Black communities.