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Youth custody and community services in Canada, 2004/2005

By Donna Calverley, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada

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This Juristat provides an overview of the youth correctional population (12-to-17 year olds) in Canada for 2004/2005, the second year since the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) came into force. The introduction of the YCJA represents a significant change in the way the criminal justice system in Canada treats young persons. In particular, the YCJA aims to increase diversion and reduce reliance on the use of incarceration.

Youth correctional supervision programs include sentenced custody (both secure and open), remand (pre-trial detention) and community supervision, which are administered under the authority of the provincial/territorial agencies responsible for youth corrections.

Sentenced custody is the most serious sentence that youth may receive. The YCJA allows a young person to be sentenced to custody only if he or she has committed a serious violent offence, has not complied with non-custodial sentences, has committed an offence for which an adult would be liable to imprisonment for more than two years, or in exceptional circumstances, where non-custodial sentences would be inconsistent with the purposes and principles of sentencing (s.39, YCJA). The Young Offenders Act (YOA) defined two levels of custody, open and secure. Under the YCJA, definitions of open and secure custody have been omitted. Instead, there is a requirement of two levels of custody distinguished by the level of restraint. For conventional purposes, in this Juristat, the two levels of restraint are referred to as open and secure custody.

Community supervision programs such as probation, the community portion of a custody and supervision order (CPCS), the intensive support and supervision order, and deferred custody and supervision, often include placing a number of restrictions on the young person. Community supervision orders are sometimes given with other sanctions and, at a minimum, require the young person to keep the peace, be of good behaviour and appear before the court as required.

Young persons may also be remanded into custody based on the judge’s decision that the young person poses a danger to society, that there may be a risk of failure to appear for court, or where detention is necessary to maintain confidence in the administration of justice. The YCJA also states that remand must not be used as a social measure (e.g., child protection, mental health) and that the court can not detain a young person if that person could not be committed to custody if found guilty.

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