The Challenges of Youth Justice in Rural and Isolated Areas in Canada
There was no dearth of suggestions put forward by respondents to address the challenges and barriers facing the youth justice system in rural and isolated areas. It should be noted that many, but not all, suggestions involve the infusion of financial, human and other resources, and may not apply in all provinces.
Suggestions for improvement to the youth justice system include:
- Various federal ministries and provincial and territorial levels of these ministries including education, health, housing etc., work together to put a plan in place to address the needs of youth in rural and isolated areas. Working together would include the coordination of funding across ministries so issues can be identified and given priority, and programs can be developed, implemented and be adequately funded. It should also include planning so the most appropriate resources and services can be implemented;
- Better partnerships between existing criminal justice services and communities around community development and other issues;
- Rehabilitative programs, such as substance abuse and psychological and psychiatric services, should be located in home communities;
- Education for young persons and communities to better understand the judicial process and how it relates to them;
- On-going training on youth issues for resource personnel and community members;
- Ensuring available staff, programming and resources are in place and are systematically monitored and evaluated;
- Use of telephone bail;
- More agreements for use of satellite services;
- Better selection and risk assessment tools to ensure that only those young persons who commit the most serious offences and have the greatest needs go through the formal system;
- Tracking how youth workers spend their time;
- More staff positions for probation and other justice services;
- Greater family involvement and parental education about parenting and needs of youth;
- Increased emphasis on prevention - communities and families need to learn that courts and schools alone cannot fix problems;
- Streamline and simplify the process for getting new funding; strictly oversee where money is going once granted;
- Money to compensate local people for time in order to encourage participation;
- Funding for outreach services if the youth leaves custody, to provide for short visits before release, for working with family and school, and for short follow-up in communities;
- Travel allowances for family members to visit children in programs;
- Travel allowances for victims to access services;
- Greater use of community justice committees (CJCs) that integrate crime prevention into their mandates and have responsibility for both offenders and victims;
- CJCs should remain community-based, not government-controlled, but need to improve community development skills and provide workers with more training;
- Hold joint regional conferences of local council and CJC members to get councils to stop concentrating on "garbage collection and water delivery" and start realizing "these are your kids;"
- A jail in each region of Nunavut so people do not have to go far away;
- Hire more Elders to take youth on the land in Aboriginal areas;
- Base justice initiatives on the needs of each individual community and not on a "cookie-cutter" approach;
- Probation officers to conduct conferences in all geographic areas;
- Adequate training for probation officers to act as facilitators;
- Uniform accreditation or accountability for community agencies doing restorative justice within and across jurisdictions; accountability should include ISSP orders;
- Adoption of the new Nunavut model for dedicated probation services in isolated areas, in preference to the "social worker jack of all trades" model.
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- Can you tell me what you consider the three most serious challenges/barriers to implementing and delivering a youth justice system in rural and/or isolated areas?
- Are these problems of equal seriousness? If not, which is most serious? Explain.
- How do these problems affect the operation of the youth justice system? (e.g., bail hearings; pre-trial detention; availability of defense counsel, esp. for trial; availability of diversion program options; sentencing options)
- How do these problems affect individual offenders and victims? (reintegration and rehabilitation of offenders; identifying and responding to needs of victims)
- Are these problems the same in all rural and/or isolated communities? If not, what factors account for the differences?
- Do you think the new YCJA will address these problems? If not, why not?
- What do you see as possible solutions to the problems you have identified?
 There is an interesting anomaly in Nunavut , where probation is the great success story and attracts all the most qualified workers but where other areas suffer a serious dearth of good workers.
 A bail/pre-trial service was established in Newfoundland last year but it is only offered in St. John's .
 There are now some 98 youth justice committees with 1300 volunteers across Alberta .
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