In support of prisoners and prison justice activism in Canada
Controversial Youth Prison to Close

Mar. 8, 2004.


The Toronto Youth Assessment Centre, one of Ontario's most controversial young-offender facilities, is finally closing its doors for good, Premier Dalton McGuinty said today.

The 120-bed centre, once decried by an Ontario youth court judge as a "hellish" facility reminiscent of a scene from a Dickens novel, is to be closed by the end of June.

"It's more than just the facility itself . . . there is a culture there that makes things very difficult for the youth who are being accommodated there," McGuinty said before a caucus meeting today.

"We've found other places to put them into and we look forward to proceeding with the closure of that effective June 30."

Children's Services Minister Marie Bountrogianni said closing the facility, an adult facility that was designated in 1998 as a temporary young offender centre, is the right thing to do.

"It's almost impossible to educate the youth in that centre; in fact, one of the classrooms is a renovated washroom, if you can believe it."

The facility, currently home to just 50 youth because of recent changes to federal young-offender laws, makes rehabilitation virtually impossible, she added.

She acknowledged that because the prisoners will be moved to more remote facilities, families will have a harder time visiting them. But Correctional Services Minister Monte Kwinter, who was out of the country Monday, is examining designs for a new facility, she said.

The facility has been harshly criticized by Ontario's Child Advocate, which issued two warnings about dangers the facility poses to young people and called for its closure.

In November 2002, Judge Brian Wegeant called the facility "a hellish system reminiscent of both Dickens and Lord of the Flies."

Last July, Judge Kathy McLeod expressed concern about what she described as "a continuing lack of medical treatment to young people."

The centre has been accused of failing to prevent the death of 16-year-old David Meffe, who hanged himself in 2002 despite warnings he was suicidal.

Filppa and Tony Meffe filed s $1.6-million lawsuit against the centre and the Ontario government earlier this year.

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