Justice & Forensic System Research


Breaking the Cycle: An eHealth Tool to Support Community Integration for People with Traumatic Brain Injury and History of Incarceration

Principal Investigators: Dr. Flora Matheson 

People facing homelessness, substance use disorders, and incarceration are more likely to experience a traumatic brain injury. Research indicates that up to 80% of people incarcerated have a traumatic brain injury. Discharge planning at the time of release from correctional facilities in Ontario is poor. Working with a network of community partners and people with lived experience of incarceration and traumatic brain injury, we are developing a smart phone app to support people with re-entry into the community after release.

This project is supported through the generosity of donors to the St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation.

An Investigation of John Howard Society’s Mobile Reintegration Services

Principal Investigators: Dr. Flora Matheson

When people leave correctional facilities, they face countless barriers to re-entry including significant mental health challenges, substance use issues, and homelessness. The John Howard Society of Toronto has implemented a mobile service delivery model on the grounds of the Toronto South Detention Centre, Canada’s largest jail located in South Etobicoke. This project will assess client views of the mobile service, who is accessing these services and how they learned that the services were available. It is important to understand clients’ views about how to improve the mobile service and to explore options to expand this service model to other correctional facilities/courts where people are released from custody.

This project is funded by Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Supporting Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury in the Ontario Criminal Justice System; Building Bridges and Creating Integrated Approaches to Care with The John Howard Society of Toronto: A Pilot Study

Principal Investigators: Dr. Flora Matheson
Co-investigator: Dr. Catherine Wiseman-Hakes

Approximately 80% of incarcerated adults have a reported history of Traumatic Brain Injury. A history of TBI increases recidivism by 69%. Many people with TBI have a number of communication and cognitive challenges that, in the context of the criminal justice system, can be misinterpreted as defiance, rudeness, aggression, disengagement, or non-compliance. Most staff in the justice system do not have training in TBI and lack the knowledge, skills and confidence to recognize, or adequately manage these challenges. The John Howard Society of Toronto (JHS-T) is a non-profit organization committed to providing and developing programs that reduce the social, economic and personal costs of crime. Many of the JHS-T’s clients have a history of suspected or diagnosed TBI. To support the work of JHS-T, its front-line staff will receive formal training in how to screen and support clients with TBI. The project will also create a network of collaborative care for JHS-T clients with TBI with the ABI-LHIN Navigator, the Acquired Brain Injury Network, and the Brain Injury Association of Toronto. The research team will assess the impact of the training and implementation of the network of collaborative care.

An Evaluation of the Services Provided by John Howard Society Toronto, Reintegration Centre

Principal Investigators: Dr. Flora Matheson
Agency lead: Amber Kellen, John Howard Society Toronto

When people leave correctional institutions, they face many personal concerns. This includes mental health concerns, substance use issues, homelessness, unemployment, and the potential loss of friends or family support. The John Howard Society Toronto Reintegration Centre opened in November 2014 to respond to these concerns. This evaluation project examined how the Reintegration Centre helps clients navigate the first day of release from the Toronto South Detention Centre.

This project was funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation under the Local Poverty Reduction Fund.


Traumatic Brain Injury and Criminalized Individuals: Identifying Best Practices for Communication Partner Training across the Justice System

Principal Investigators: Dr. Flora Matheson, Dr. Catherine Wiseman-Hakes, Dr. Angela Colantonio

TBI is highly common in people who have contact with the justice system. In fact, about 80% of incarcerated adults have a reported history of TBI. Moderate to severe TBI is often associated with cognitive, communicative and behavioural impairments, leaving people vulnerable to misinterpretation, exploitation, and abuse. Thus, they may have difficulties engaging in important and complex social interactions, such as encountering police officers and attending court proceedings. This project explored communication challenges for people with TBI and how staff in the justice/forensic system communicate with people who have TBI. This project is part of a larger study, Integrating Brain Injury, Mental Health, and Addictions Research Program, with Principal Investigators Dr. Angela Colantonio and Dr. Flora Matheson.

This project was funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.