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Fewer youths behind bars
Fewer youths are being sent to jail for their crimes.
The incarceration rate for youths in Canada reached an eight-year low in 2002/2003, according to a Statistics Canada report released yesterday. About 90 per cent of young offenders were on supervised probation, 7 per cent were serving time in jail and 3 per cent were in custody awaiting a court appearance or sentencing.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act, which replaced the former Young Offenders Act in April 2003, reserves jail for young people who have committed serious and often violent crimes.
Even though the study covered a period before the implementation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, judges were likely anticipating the changes and beginning to apply them in youth courts, said Anthony Doob, a criminologist and professor at the University of Toronto.
"It is possible that all the talk about being more selective in the use of custody had an effect on judges. Also I think a good part of it had to do with the general reduction of the number of cases going into youth court," said Doob, who recently co-wrote a book called Responding to Youth Crime in Canada .
In the past, judges often looked for alternatives to jail for youths but are now required to do so, Doob said.
On any given day during 2002/2003, an average of 29,400 youths were in custody or on supervised probation.
The total number of youths aged 12 to 17 in the correctional system decreased by 6 per cent from 1993/1994 to 2002/2003. Youths held on remand (awaiting a court appearance or sentencing) increased by 21 per cent over the same period, while those sentenced to custody decreased by 35 per cent.
Youth incarceration rate reaches eight-year low
By ALLISON DUNFIELD
The youth incarceration rate in this country reached an eight-year low in 2002-03, Statistics Canada says. The agency, which released a report Wednesday on youth crime in Canada, also found that crime rates among young people have also been dropping during that same period.
"Overall, the number of young people incarcerated has been decreasing during this period [from 1993-94 to 2002-03] in parallel with a decline in the youth crime rate," Wednesday's report on youth custody and community services said.
The survey found that on any given day during 2002-03, an average of 29,400 youths ages 12 to 17 WERE either in custody or under supervised probation.
"The vast majority [90 per cent or about 26,400] were on probation," the study said.
The breakdown of the remaining 2,980 includes: 850 youths who were in temporary detention awaiting a court appearance or sentencing, 1,070 who were in secure custody and 1,060 who were in open custody.
This means Canada's incarceration rate in 2002-03 was 13 youths in custody for every 10,000 in the population. The figures exclude Ontario, because data for 12- to-15-year-olds are unavailable, the agency said. The rate was down by 5 per cent from 2002-02 and by 33 per cent from 1993-94.
The study also found that admissions to youth correctional facilities had gone down in 2002-03 from the previous year.
"Decreases were reported for all admissions to correctional services," Statistics Canada said.
The study also found that in 2002-03, a significant number of cases (24,500) resulted in agreements on alternative programs rather than probation, secure custody or remand for the youths.
"These agreements refer to formalized programs through which individuals who would otherwise proceed to court are dealt with via non-judicial, community-based alternatives," the study notes.
Further, it says that youths are only involved in alternative measure programs if they have agreed to take part in them.