Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah has recently received a Connaught New Researcher Award to pursue research into the representation of black criminality in Toronto.
Professor Owusu-Bempah's research addresses a context in which Canada’s Black federal prison population has increased dramatically - from 767 Black inmates in 2005 to 1,340 in 2015. This period coincided with growing public concern and media reporting of gang violence and a rapid expansion of anti-gang legislation and associated policing practices in Toronto, the jurisdiction with Canada’s largest number of Black people. Much of the anti-gang policing was, in fact, targeted to neighbourhoods with large numbers of Black people.
Professor Owusu-Bempah's research project will look at the impact of anti-gang public discourse and legislation on Toronto’s Black population. His research will analyze the ways that the media frames Toronto’s “street gang” problem, its apparent causes and proposed solutions and how federal, provincial and municipal government debates depicted the causes and solutions to Toronto’s “street gang” problem.
This project will lay the foundation for a larger project connecting popular attitudes, public policy and police behaviour in an effort to understand the growing number of Black people in custody. As Canadian society continues to become more racially, ethnically and religiously diverse, studies like this -- projects that examine the impact of social policy on specific sub-populations --will be particularly helpful in fostering a safe, equitable and healthy society.