It’s every parent’s nightmare: a knock on the door – a phone call – your child is in trouble with the law.
While we may immediately envision striped prison uniforms and youth camps, Countries like Canada are taking new approaches when it comes to dealing with young offenders.
Since the early 2000’s, Canada’s youth crime rate has been dropping significantly. Despite this decline, youth still make up 13% of the countries persons accused of crime.
While most of these accused crimes are minor offences, such as theft, drug possession, or mischief, they are still crimes and we should be working to determine the best ways possible to educate and deter our country’s youth from partaking in these unlawful activities.
To do this, we need to look at a variety of alternative sentences for young offenders. The sentence depends on a number of factors, including the offenders age, history, mental state, severity of the crime, etc.
The aim of these sentences is rehabilitate the young offenders, in hopes of preventing them from reoffending in the future. This goal is the main focus of Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act, which takes the emphasis off of punishment and allocates it to treatment and counseling.
Some of the sentences available for young offenders under this act are: community service, youth rehabilitation, fines, and/or custodial service as a last resort.
This type of sentencing will depend on the youth’s time and abilities, and can be up to a maximum of 240 required hours within a time frame of one year. Community service can include tasks such as: community clean up, volunteering with local charities or shelters, etc.
These tasks are meant to make good the loss or harm suffered by the community because of the offender’s actions.
This type of sentencing is meant to contain and conform the actions and behaviours of the offender. This can include requirements such as: curfews, supervision, volunteer work, mental health treatments, and/or educational training.
These requirements are intended to transform the youth into a more productive and responsible member of society.
The level of the fine delivered will depend on the severity of the crime committed. If the young offender is under the age of 16, the responsibility of paying the fine will fall onto the parents or guardians of the offender.
Custody or jail time is seen as a last resort for young offenders, for only the most serious of cases. In these situations, a lawyer is almost always your best bet if you wish to avoid jail time.
There are a variety of custodial options for young offenders, including: youth homes, detention centres, rehabilitation centres, or prison. Typically these institutions are meant to provide the education and training needed for the youth to become a fruitful member of the community, and to prevent any further offences.
However, these sentences can be extended for offenders who are considered to be a danger to society.
The Best Solution Is Prevention
Obviously, in an ideal world there would be no crime, especially from the youngest members of our societies. Until that day, Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act is doing it’s best to sentence these young offenders in a way that will educate them and allow them to grow into an adult that can be a responsible and flourishing member of the community.