In 1982, the Young Offenders Act [YOA] was established. It replaced the Juvenile Delinquents Act [JDA] of 1908 and its main objective was to guarantee the rights and freedoms of Canadian Youth were being met. Many revisions and opportunities arose with the passing of the YOA. With the passing of the YOA, it provided the young offenders of Canada with extended rights, chances for rehabilitation, and also therapy institutions. The YOA takes into concern such elements of age, maturity, reasonableness, and seriousness of the crimes committed (Barnhorst & Barnhorst, 2004). Barnhorst & Barnhorst (2004) explained that the act was useful to Canadian Youth for an abundant of time however, some weakness become clear since the act was passed. Under the YOA, too many young people were being charged and arrested.
Also, despite other programs being available, they were being mostly used for more minor offences committed by the youth in society. With that being said, the YOA went back to legislation to fix some of its problems and in return a new act called the Youth Criminal Justice Act [YCJA] or also known as Bill C-7 was enacted and became effective in April 2003 (YCJA: Summary and Background, para.4). Due to society’s concern with youth involvement in crime, the Canadian government has developed an improved version of past acts. By making these revisions, Canadian society will achieve valuable policies that will aid with today and the future’s youth justice system through three objectives: those young offenders will face meaningful consequences for their actions, improving rehabilitation of young offenders, and placing much more emphasis on the prevention of youth crime.
In past the YOA has not provided clear guidance to judges on sentencing and does not provide a specific purpose of sentencing. The principles of the YOA are inconsistent with each other and are not ranked in terms of priority. With the YCJA however, it addressed the three objectives mentioned above in legislation by stating the problems with the YOA which were the overuse of imprisonment, courts, and unfairness. Also, the clear distinction of offences and recognition of its victims did not play a fair role in the YOA (YCJA: Summary and Background, para.8). With these being stated as problems, the government firstly addressed that the youth should face meaningful consequences for their actions through proportionality.
Proportionality is addressing that the youth should be held accountable through ensuring that they face meaningful consequences and fairness of the actions they have committed. This is done by having the consequences relative to the offence committed (Barnhorst,R. 2004). Another principle that was established was that young people who commit criminal offences would have to assume responsibility for their behavior which will ensure more victim involvement, publication of the offender’s name, and meaningful consequences. The implementation of the YCJA will ensure that today’s youth are held more accountable for their actions (Barnhorst.R, 2004).
The treatment and rehabilitation programs an offender receives play a large part in the positive rearrangement of that offender into society. For a youth to return to society and become a respectable citizen of their community it is necessary to realize the special needs of youth and take into consideration these needs when selecting programs to rehabilitate and control these young offenders. “Rehabilitation and reintegration” (YCJA: Summary and Background, para.7) is the key through social workers and/or the monitoring of parents which the YOA did not recognize.
As stated in Clause 90 (2) of the Youth Criminal Justice Act “When a youth worker is imposed to committing a young person to custody…must maximize his or her chances for reintegration into the community…” the youth worker or guardian must also manage, supply maintain, and aid in order to make sure that the youth respects the conditions and follows through with their program. To avoid the young person getting involved with potentially troublesome groups, the youth worker or guardian can recommend alternative activities as going to school, getting a hobby, joining a sports team, and/or getting a job. These optional actions will help to promote a more positive behavior in the young person and more success to his or her recovery.
The YCJA also involved the emphasis on the prevention of youth crime in society. With holding youths accountable in a fair manner, it could make a great contribution to the protection of not only to the youths within society but also the adult citizens. The article youth criminal justice act: new directions and implementation issues (2004) explained that “it can make a contribution to the protection of the public in the long-term. Parliaments references to protection of the public indicate that such protection is a desired long-term outcome or result of the activities of the youth justice system”. The article goes on further to explain that the emphasis of protection of youth crime can protect the citizens within society at a greater affect.
Various factors made the Youth Criminal Justice Act a useful accomplishment to society because it lowered currently increasing youth violent crime rates. The extended direction and lessons that the YCJA provides for a youth will ensure that youth violent crime rates drop continuously in the future. Recent statistics show that the amount and harshness of youth violent crimes have significantly dropped according to media sources “populations in youth custody facilities in Alberta, Ontario, and Newfoundland have declined by 20% to 50% in the act’s first’s months in force…” (Bala, N & Sanjeev, A, 2004). There is even more evidence that the YCJA is meeting the needs of Canadian society by crime rate of the youth significantly dropping “Judges heard 70,465 cases during the 2003/04 fiscal year, down 17% from the previous year. It was the single largest annual decline since 1991/92, the first year for which complete national data coverage was available from the Youth Court Survey (Youth Court Statistics, 2005).
The Youth Criminal Justice Act has shown an improvement in social life of many youths. The YCJA improved the rehabilitation methods that the YOA gave to youths in the past through the recognizing a social work which is a key role for the improvement of the youths come back into society. The YCJA also ensures responsibility for the actions of the individuals. This will ensure that the youth will face meaningful consequences for their actions with proportional sentencing to the offence they have committed. The act also proposes greater emphasis of the prevention of youth crime and safety in society by holding the youth more accountable which in turn could protect society more. Overall, the Youth Criminal Justice Act sets out a new legislative structure for Canada’s youth justice system. The YCJA provides help in achieving a fairer and more effective youth justice system. Canada has already achieved the objectives and thereby created a more effective youth justice system which will only decrease the number of violent youth crimes in Canada further on in the future.
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