Individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) are involved in the criminal justice system at disproportionate rates. As set out in the Consensus Statement on Legal Issues of FASD, released by Alberta's Institute of Health Economics in 2013, FASD describes "a range of physical, neurodevelopmental, and behavioural impairments resulting from damage to the brain of the fetus caused by maternal alcohol use during pregnancy." Studies indicate that between 10 to 25 per cent of Canadian prisoners have FASD.
Because people living with FASD and Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) often lack impulse control, have an inability to make reasoned decisions or foresee consequences, and are incapable of learning from mistakes, they are at a higher risk of being involved in the criminal justice system. Yet the justice system operates on the presumption that people are able to act voluntarily when committing criminal acts.
Building on the findings of the 2013 Consensus Statement, C-DAS will focus on the need for education of lawyers and the judiciary about FASD and FAE and how people with FASD and FAE can be better represented and assisted when encountering the justice system. With a better understanding of FASD and FAE, lawyers and the judiciary can better recognize these conditions and assist with interventions through community-based solutions, ideally earlier in such individuals' contact with the justice system, with the goal of interrupting the pattern of repeat offending that so often characterizes their lives.