The December 1996 resolution is:
Resolved that the Canadian Federal Government should withold transfer payments to any Province which does not fully implement the rehabilitative provisions of the Young Offenders Act.
Allan Rock, Minister of Justice and Attorney General for Canada, has recently announced that the federal government will limit transfer payments to the Provinces pending improvement by certain Provinces in their implementation of non-custodial alternatives to imprisonment for young persons. Secure custody beds cost the taxpayer about $100,000.00 per bed per year and open custody beds cost about $50,000.00 per year. For those prices, at least one if not two full-time social workers could be hired to work on a one-to-one basis with a young person serving a sentence at home.
Jails (including both secure and open custody facilities) do not promote positive peer relationships, good learning experiences, and good sexual health. If there are less expensive and better alternatives to jail for young persons we should be trying them.
Ontario has never implemented the Young Offenders Act as it was originally designed. Ontario was dragged kicking and screaming into the application of the Act to 16 and 17 year olds and into the implementation of alternative measures. Ontario has separate Ministries (COMSOC and Corrections) dealing with 12 to 15 year olds and 16 to 17 year olds. Ontario has never had intermittent sentences for young persons. In many parts of Ontario, young persons ages 16 and 17 are still tried in the same Court facilities and warehoused in the same institutions as adults. It is still very difficult to obtain a psychological assessment for a young person ages 16 or 17. The Young Offenders Act has been applicable to young persons ages 16 and 17 in Ontario since 1985 and that province has still refused to apply the Act in its entirety.
See also: NCPC YOA Brief respecting Bill C-37
1. Interview a probation officer (youth worker) in your jurisdiction and find out if he or she works with 12 to 15 year olds or 16 to 17 year olds or both. Are there facilities available for pre-sentencing psychological assessments for both groups? What is the probation officer's caseload? Does the probation officer feel good about the available rehabilitative resources in your community? How could they be improved?
2. Are there open custody facilities in your city or town? If not, why not? Do the politicians in your community feel that they are unnecessary because there is no crime in your community? How far must parents travel to visit their children in detention or custody? What educational resources are available to residents of open custody?
3. Contact your local John Howard Society or Elizabeth Fry Society. How much does it cost to incarcerate young persons in your province? What improvements could be made to the system in your province to encourage rehabilitation?
4. What is the purpose of jail? Is secure custody an effective means of rehabilitation?
5. What are the rules concerning alternative measures in your province?
6. Does your province permit intermittent sentences for young persons? If not, why not? Does your province permit intermittent sentences for adults?
Copyright 1996, Stephen R. Biss, Permission to copy and reference is given so long as this line is included.
Stephen R. Biss, Barrister & Solicitor
470 Hensall Circle, Suite 303
905-273-3322 or 1-877-273-3322
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