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On Institutional Violence

C. Tess Sheldon, Lawyer and Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto

Published April 20, 2018 by Technologies of Justice.

During the Technologies of Justice Conference session on violent custodial logics, C. Tess Sheldon holds a talk on institutional violence. The conference took place from January 26 to 27, 2018 at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.



Sheldon discusses law, institutional violence and disability. She places a focus on disability getting martialled, used and deployed in terms of institutional violence. She points out how biomedical power is being and has been used against people and how it is important to enact a trauma-informed practice in the legal system. She highlights how persons with disabilities are more likely to be survivors of violence, while pointing out the fact that current stats are very low because of the high barriers to reporting as a person with a disability.

She discusses how violence by direct action and failure to act are both considered types of violence that are common in places of disability, and how the use of violent techniques often appear in disability settings within institutions such as hospitals or jails. She also brings to light the focus on the victim and not the perpetrator of violence in recommendations after a case has been reported, and how there have been cases of coercive and intrusive protections through the law of people with disabilities, which have not been rectified in the way the legal system deals with cases such as theirs. She also shows the connection between disability and trauma can cause other types of confusing and disparaging situations for those who have had trauma but do not seem disabled by it, and those with a disability not caused by any sort of trauma.