This program aims to help people who have lived homelessness regularize their legal situation (tickets related to being homeless and summary criminal charges) at Montreal’s Municipal Court. This program targets people who choose to improve their stability and who have taken, or who intend to take, steps to do so. Often, regularization results from the withdrawal of all tickets and/or by adapting sentences in criminal cases. Since the person’s autonomy is at the heart of the program, integrating PAJIC is voluntary and the person may decide to integrate all or only part of his penal and criminal files.
The program’s general aim is to help people who have lived homelessness regularize their legal situation so that they may dedicate themselves entirely to improve their living conditions. They can benefit from this program only once, with exceptions.
Regular PAJIC (tickets)
Regular PAJIC aims at regularizing tickets so that they do not interfere with the steps taken by people who have lived homelessness to improve their living conditions.
It targets: people who have lived homelessness and who are taking steps to stabilize their life and who want to regularize the tickets they received in Montreal.
Procedure: The Clinique Droits Devant is the entry door to the program. Its community workers evaluate the person’s eligibility and then set an appointment with a prosecutor. Meetings with the latter are held at the Clinique Droits Devant, two full days every month.
The person exposes to the prosecutor the steps he has taken, with no need to provide any documents or proof. The Clinique’s community workers accompany the person until the end of the program at the municipal court, where he meets one of PAJIC’s judges who, partly or entirely, withdraws the person’s tickets, thus finishing the program. A courtroom is reserved for Regular PAJIC two half-days per month.
PAJIC Open Doors (criminal charges)
This component of the program aims to avoid imprisonment and to prevent the legal process from hindering people’s steps in improving their situation. The sentences in criminal matters are thus better adapted to people’s reality.
It targets: people currently living or having lived homelessness and who want to take or have already taken steps to improve their living conditions and who face pending criminal charges (tickets, if any, are also dealt with at the end of PAJIC Open Doors).
Procedure: The Clinique Droits Devant is the main entry door to PAJIC Open Doors, but defense lawyers can also directly refer someone to it. In the case of a lawyer referral, a community worker from the Clinique makes sure that the person is willing and eligible.
The person is first evaluated by the Clinique’s community worker, and an intervention plan is set up to guide the follow up of the steps the person is taking during the PAJIC. If the person already has a plan established with another organization and consents to it, this plan will also be used in the PAJIC.
The Clinique’s community workers constantly follow-up on the person’s steps, in parallel with the work of other organizations that support the person. Then, a meeting every three or four months is held in court with the prosecutor. The follow-up’s intensity depends on the situation and on the needs of the person, who can be referred to other resources. The program usually lasts for at least a year. A courtroom is reserved for PAJIC Open Doors two half-days per month.
The PAJIC program used to be quite different. In its beginnings, in 2009, only the regular PAJIC existed and only considered public space tickets given to people who had lived homelessness and had taken different steps in various spheres of their life. The only entry door was the Clinique Droits Devant. Furthermore, the prosecutor could only withdraw the tickets that had not been judged yet, leaving behind a colossal debt of tickets judged by default, with high legal fees attached. Thus, the PAJIC dealt with only with a small part of the legal debt.
In its beginnings, the meetings between judiciarized people, community workers from the Clinique Droits Devant and PAJIC prosecutors were held at the Municipal Court. However, feeling intimidated, people did not answer or only briefly answered the prosecutor’s questions. Since those meetings have now been moved to the Clinique Droits Devant, people are more comfortable talking.
In 2012, with the addition of more prosecutors to increase the PAJIC staff, the person’s entire legal situation, including tickets (judged and unjudged) is considered. However, tickets received for carrying a knife, participating in a brawl, protesting or obstructing a law enforcement officer cannot be included in PAJIC, except in special circumstances.
PAJIC Open Doors then began handling various summary criminal charges (under the Montreal Municipal Court jurisdiction), such as subsistence robberies and breaches of conditions. However, certain charges (e.g. linked to conjugal violence, impaired capacities) are not accepted but rather referred to other social programs offered by the Municipal Court. People can be referred to the Open Doors component of PAJIC by their lawyer, by prosecutors, by the Clinique Droits Devant or by their community worker. It is worth noting that since 2016, a plan is set up with the person to facilitate follow ups on the program. Lastly, when the person completes the PAJIC Open Doors, the sentence is better adapted to his situations, when compared to regular procedure.
The PAJIC is one of the eight social programs at the Montreal Municipal Court.