Young Offenders and the Law: How the Law Responds to Youth Offending


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The Youth Centre respondents indicated that a majority of the Youth Centres in Quebec have embraced a differential clinical intervention approach providing a full range of services to youth offenders.

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This often results in a case-by-case intervention strategy for chronic and persistent youth offenders. The implication of this is that chronic and persistent youth offenders receive services on the basis of their dispositions and individual assessments during intake. In addition to the case-by-case intervention, the Youth Centres in the province have a variety of specialized programs for youth offenders.

The intervention was modeled on the Boscoville psycho-education approach, where the intervention strategies were based on a cognitive development and behaviour model.

Youth justice - Catch22

While there have not been any comprehensive evaluations of this approach by the YCs, there is an on-going evaluation strategy currently underway. The evaluation found that the intervention was effective in preventing recidivism in Nearly all of the medium to large YCs offer special intervention programs to youth offenders in custody. This program is based on the developmental, cognitive-behaviour approach, the psycho-educational model, and the long term experience of the two youth institutions under their jurisdiction.

A number of YCs Montreal, Estrie, Quebec, and Mauricie indicated that they offer similar programs to youth offenders completing their custodial sentence through community supervision. The two staff members work together with the young people and their families. However, the more serious or chronic youth offenders involved in sexual offences are excluded from this program. The purpose of this report was to identify police strategies and programs available in Canada that target chronic and persistent youth offenders.

This section discusses the implications of the findings from the review, and identifies areas for future work to advance knowledge on these practices and programs for youth offenders. The literature on youth at-risk identifies many factors that are correlated with youth entering a trajectory of chronic offending behaviour. These factors fall into five main domains: individual, family, peer, school, and community.

Generally, chronic and persistent youth offenders experience a number of complex and influential factors, such as mental health issues, family violence and breakdown, negative peer associations and gang involvement, school difficulties, and unsafe communities. An understanding of the impact of these factors at various stages in child and youth development, from early childhood to late adolescence, would allow for the development of more effective prevention and intervention strategies.

As such, early identification of risk factors and subsequent intervention is important in order to promote resiliency. Furthermore, according to the literature, collaborative efforts in the different contexts in which a child develops are essential to increase the likelihood of success.


  • Product details.
  • AIFS Secondary links.
  • New Zealand Law Students Journal.
  • The Young Offenders Act (E);
  • To address youth offending, we must look to the evidence of what works?

Police in Canada are increasingly taking an early intervention approach for youth at-risk of chronic and persistent offending behaviours. In light of this, strategies that are most effective for intervening with chronic and persistent youth offenders encompass elements that impact upon risk factors in all of the five domains identified.

The Role of the Youth Offending Team

Police services that work with community service representatives are likely to be more effective in responding to chronic and persistent youth offending than those who operate programs in isolation from other agencies that the youth has contact with e. The research literature suggests that these are likely to be the most effective programs. The multi-agency approach also ensures that siblings of youth already in the program can receive early intervention. Overall, the review of programs for youth offenders revealed a greater number of police initiatives for chronic and persistent youth offenders in Ontario and western Canada.

Many police representatives cited the change in the youth justice legislation as the primary reason for focussing resources on chronic and persistent youth offenders. The YCJA provides more options for community-based sentencing, which means that an increased number of youth are serving their sentences in the community. As a result, some police services have found that increased monitoring and surveillance for chronic and persistent offenders is an effective approach for ensuring that youth comply with their court-ordered conditions. In Quebec there were no police programs specifically designed to address chronic and persistent youth offenders, nor are the Youth Centres in the province dealing with chronic and persistent youth offenders as a separate population.

The respondents indicated that these young people are not being assessed for special programs outside of the continuum of services and programs that already exist in the province. Importantly, the respondents did not believe that such programs were necessarily required. Instead, chronic and persistent youth offenders are dealt with primarily through the individual sanctions imposed by the justice system.

It is within this context that special individualized treatments and services for youth offenders have been developed in Quebec, including those youth who present as chronic and persistent offenders. The respondents indicate that a majority of the Youth Centres in Quebec have embraced a differential clinical intervention approach providing a full range of services to youth offenders.

Thus, a young person who presents with a record of numerous offences will receive more service and more intensive interventions. The unique approach to youth justice in Quebec is reflected in the fact that it had the third lowest police reported youth crime rate in Canada in In addition, it had the lowest youth charging rate in the country, and the lowest youth charging rate for violent crime. Similarly, the number of cases referred by the courts has decreased by This suggests both that the police are handling cases more informally under the YCJA and that the rates themselves are decreasing.

One major finding of this review of community-based and police strategies for youth offenders indicates the need for police strategies and programs across Canada to be formally evaluated. The majority of the programs have not gone under any evaluations of their impacts. While most police agencies have not conducted formal evaluations of their programs with the exception of the three SHOCAPs in Saskatchewan , many program respondents interviewed were positive about their interventions for chronic and persistent youth offenders.

Overall, there seems to be a need for increased resources to ensure program continuity and effectiveness. For many of the respondents, this need has been amplified by the increase in community-based sentences under the YCJA , which places greater demands on police to work in partnership with community-based agencies to ensure that youth are successful with their court-ordered conditions of release in the community. Another major issue for the programs is how to define chronic and persistent youth offenders.

However, it is obvious from this review of program that operational definitions of chronic and persistent youth offenders vary considerably across programs, making comparisons difficult. For example, in British Columbia, police are mainly concerned with offenders who have accumulated a particular number of convictions or police contacts, while in other provinces, police programs rely on referrals from probation officers and social workers who use assessment tools that measure a number of different risk factors.

While some police officers interviewed discussed the need for a standardized screening tool to assess which youth should be included in their programs, assessing these youth remains complex. Issues that are beyond the criminal justice system have been identified by the practitioners as important to consider, particularly the role mental health plays in the effectiveness of programs for chronic and persistent youth offenders.

The literature suggests that youth who are heavily involved in the criminal justice system have often experienced a history of mental health and substance abuse problems that need to be addressed before rehabilitation can occur. Police officers noted that mental health conditions may inhibit the success of programs that target youth solely based on their criminal history. Some officers spoke about the need for increased training on mental health issues and conditions such as FASD to ensure that police can be more effective in dealing with youth who are chronic and persistent offenders.

Other police representatives spoke about using crime-specific strategies to manage chronic offenders in their community. Rather than targeting specific types of offenders, some police representatives identified strategies and programs that target a specific crime. Evidence from early years' research suggests that this can be done via small-scale interventions P.

Snow et al. Accordingly, children need to be able to engage verbally in a range of classroom transactions, not all of which are pedagogically focused. Ensuring that at-risk children and adolescents do not enter the notional school-to-prison pipeline requires, therefore, that they are equipped with oracy and literacy skills that mitigate early risk factors and contribute to academic success and retention at school. Collaborative relationships between teaching, welfare, and speech-language pathology staff across all three response to intervention tiers is central to this endeavor P.

The small but significant percentage of young people who do experience formal contact with the police and youth justice system must navigate their way through highly verbal and high-stakes, text-rich processes. In most cases, this begins with interception by law enforcement personnel, sometimes at the scene of an alleged crime and sometimes a period of time later. Whether they are suspects, victims, or witnesses in criminal investigations, young people will be expected to answer specific questions and to provide some form of narrative account of events.

This is particularly notable in view of the fact that narrative language skills in this population have been shown to be compromised under low-stress experimental conditions P. In addition to dealing with these interview processes, young people need to understand specialized legal terminology, such as the language contained within the so-called Miranda Rights, which comprises low-frequency terms that many young people may not have encountered previously, such as right, appoint, and attorney. Rost and McGregor examined comprehension of such rights in a sample of adolescents with specific language impairment, but no criminal justice involvement, and concluded that their equitable access to the justice system would be compromised as a result of their poor comprehension of these terms.

Young people who are released into the community on bail may have a number of conditions placed on their liberty, and these, too, will be couched in legal terminology. Speech-language pathology as a profession has an important advocacy role to play in improving knowledge and practices pertaining to oral language competence in the youth justice system and ensuring that young people with language disorders are not disadvantaged in their encounters with the legal system.

This can be done through both strengthening the knowledge and skills of court personnel and advocating for the presence of RIs for all vulnerable people who appear before the court, whether as suspects, witness, or victims. Such programs may be based on validated psychological theories and be conducted on established evidence-based principles, but these safeguards do not remove the fact that they are highly verbally mediated.

As a consequence, such therapeutic interventions may present particular engagement challenges for young people with invariably undiagnosed DLD. This is an area requiring investigation by cross-disciplinary research teams between speech-language pathology, psychology, and social work, so that ways of modifying such interventions to improve their accessibility to and efficacy for young people with DLD, while preserving their theoretical integrity and fidelity, can be established. In recent years, there has been a focus on trauma-informed practice in youth justice settings so that all routines and the staff implementing them are supported by knowledge of triggers for emotional dysregulation Buckingham, SLPs have an important role to play in providing professional learning to youth justice staff to explain the ways in which language difficulties manifest in everyday situations and in supporting staff to respond in ways that promote communication success.

Youth justice timeline

Restorative justice has been defined by Zehr , p. The 3 pillars of RJ are harms, needs, and obligations. The manner in which restorative conferences are convened varies between jurisdictions, and in many cases, they sit alongside, rather than being a substitute for formal legal processes. Their underlying principle is that the harm that has been caused by the offender's wrongdoing is best dealt with through acknowledgement of that harm and determining a mutually agreed way of repairing this, while also seeking to re integrate the offender into mainstream society Zehr, As described by P.

Snow and Sanger and Hayes and Snow , however, restorative justice conferences are highly verbal exchanges, which tax vulnerable language-processing abilities and require higher order pragmatic and social cognition skills, such as dealing with disparities between verbal and nonverbal messaging, displaying genuineness and empathy, and making an authentic apology.

High rates of alexithymia, as described earlier, are likely to be disadvantageous to youth offenders in this context, as restorative justice conferences require the identification and discussion of feelings: one's own and those of others. For these reasons, such processes require a speech-language pathology lens to ensure that adequate preparation protocols are in place and that convenors are well versed in the types of language vulnerabilities that are common in this population and ways in which they might impact on conference outcomes for both the offender and the victim.

The incarceration of young people embodies the most extreme manifestation of the school-to-prison pipeline, while also offering one of the most important intervention imperatives: the need to improve vulnerable young people's reading and writing abilities. As noted by Leone, Krezmien, Mason, and Meisel , p. Reading is likely the single most important skill acquired through formal schooling, an essential foundation for educational progress and mastery. In today's world, a basic level of reading proficiency is no longer sufficient for the demands of the workplace….

Reading failure contributes to a host of long-term negative outcomes, including frustration leading to more generalized academic and behavior problems, high rates of suspension, and limited access to employment opportunities in adulthood…. Youth with pronounced reading difficulties are vulnerable to marginalization in their schools and communities and lifelong risk of involvement in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Given the high rates of detachment from school prior to incarceration P. The literature on remedial interventions for incarcerated youth provides promising evidence supporting the use of systematic, explicit instruction in phonics decoding to enhance reading comprehension, vocabulary, accuracy, and fluency Allen-DeBoer et al.

This is a glaring gap in the research literature and is one that needs to be addressed by speech-language pathology research teams, in collaboration with justice and education colleagues. Snow, , and SLPs can also play a major role in adapting mainstream response-to-intervention Hempenstall, models to improve their fit in correctional contexts to support targeted literacy interventions P. Furthermore, SLPs have an important role in the creation and critical review of user-friendly, accessible printed materials that explain justice processes e.

Communication is a basic human right, and it is not fair to set young people up to fail e.

There is a small but positive emerging literature supporting the role of speech-language pathology in addressing communication needs of incarcerated young people. Gregory and Bryan in the United Kingdom and P. Snow and Woodward in Australia have demonstrated that such young people are able to show strong therapeutic engagement and make meaningful communication gains in response to relatively short-term, medium-intensity speech-language pathology interventions.

Caution should be exercised, however, in the selection of outcome variables employed, particularly as this relates to recidivism. In keeping with the school-to-prison pipeline notion, speech-language pathology services should be made available to at-risk young people not engaged with school Bryan et al. This will mean providing speech-language pathology services through youth welfare, social service, and child protection agencies, all of which intersect with youth justice and form part of the school-to-prison pipeline. A question that may arise from a review of this literature is that of language screening of young people when they enter the youth justice system.

In biomedicine, screening is used to detect the presence of disease before symptoms appear; however, its role in the human communication sciences pertains more to case identification. This, together with the high base rate of DLD in this population, calls into question the wisdom of screening, as opposed to employing a set of universal assumptions about and approaches to the language needs of this population.

Young Offenders and the Law: How the Law Responds to Youth Offending
Young Offenders and the Law: How the Law Responds to Youth Offending
Young Offenders and the Law: How the Law Responds to Youth Offending
Young Offenders and the Law: How the Law Responds to Youth Offending
Young Offenders and the Law: How the Law Responds to Youth Offending
Young Offenders and the Law: How the Law Responds to Youth Offending

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