Youth offenders living a life in the justice system

What is the first thing you think about when you hear youth justice? How about youth crime?  I suppose it depends on each and every one of our experiences with young offenders and the justice system. Have you ever wondered why youth commit to a life of offending? It’s a topic that has raised my curiosity several times. What is it that we should do to guard youth away from crime? Many researchers have proven that youth are at a high risk to commit a criminal offense during their teenage years. For starters, we must consider their family background and their circumstances. What I came to realize is that family plays a critical role in our daily lives whether we like it or not. Hence we should get to the root of the problem, which, leads to the delinquent behaviours.

The increase in the crime rate in Canada is directly related to the increase in youth crime. Art by Neha Sekhon
The increase in the crime rate in Canada is directly related to the increase in youth crime. Art by Neha Sekhon

Some of the many factors that can increase the chances of the youth to offend in Canada are: poverty, lack of parental figures, unemployed parents, troubled home life, a high proportion of unsupervised time with peers, parental criminality, poor parental discipline and supervision, low family income,family conflict, deprivation such as poor housing, and homelessness as listed in an ACS Distance Education report on Teen Crime.

It is factors like those that sometimes have youth feeling like there is no way of escape from their circumstances at hand. In addition, they probably don’t understand the severity and the impact it will have not just on them but also on their future. Many youth crime goes unreported to the police. I believe the reason for that is fear or a previous bad experience with the police. Therefore, they don’t report it to the police. That’s not all there is to the youth justice system. In 2003, the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YJCA) was born. The purpose of the act was to reduce the high levels of incarceration of youth in the prison system. Secondly, for the purpose of minimizing the number of youth using the courts and the custody of the youths by the court.

The youth justice system was created to take into consideration the best interest of the victim, the accountability of the crime through meaningful consequences and rehabilitation and reintegration of the youth. Does our youth justice system work? I think our justice system has a long way to go. I say this because the youth that leave the prisons or detention centers go back to being offenders and later go back into the system. What does that say to you? To me it clearly states not only has the system failed them but also we, as a community have failed them.  What is there that we can do? YJCA mentions that there should be meaningful consequences for the negative behaviours youth take and we should take accountably for them. If that is a fact then why are they repeating the same patterns that get them into the system?

I honestly believe that we do not provide enough services that truly help the youth. Sometimes we send them to councillors or social workers or foster homes and families and out of nowhere we change them, which creates more instability in their lives. We need to start to fix the problem of our attentions towards those young offenders. We can do that by enforcing some stability, support and positivity into their lives. This in no jigsaw puzzle, it’s not complicated in fact, it’s the opposite, it’s easy. We can start by constructing healthy and safe communities for them.

Fact: The increase in the crime rate in Canada is directly related to the increase in youth crime.

“I think it’s important for us as a society to remember that the youth within juvenile justice systems are, most of the time, youths who simply haven’t had the right mentors and supporters around them – because of circumstances beyond their control,” said actress, Q’orianka Kilcher.

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