Youth Custody Programs
In its Declaration of Principles, the Youth Criminal Justice Act states that the intent of the youth criminal justice system is to:
- prevent crime by addressing circumstances underlying a young person's offending behaviour;
- rehabilitate young persons who commit offences and reintegrate them into society; and,
- ensure that a young person is subject to meaningful consequences for their offence.
A youth court judge may order a custody sentence when a young offender requires more supervision and structure than is available within the community. There are two levels of custody available to the youth court: open and secure custody. The court makes a decision on the level of custody based on the risk the youth presents to society, as well as the type of and number of offences the youth has committed.
What are the guiding principles of youth custody?
Youth custody operates under the following guiding principles:
- All youth must remain safe from harm
- All youth have the potential to change
- Youth can mature and be successful
- Parents and/or legal guardians are included in personal development and case plans
- Programming must be relevant to gender, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation
- Parents are encouraged to express their thoughts, ideas, and concerns about their youth
- By working together, we can provide an opportunity for a young person’s personal growth and development
- Family relationships are encouraged
What can a youth expect in youth custody?
A primary youth worker is assigned to each young person sentenced to custody to help them address problem areas before returning to the community. Educational programming, in-house resources, group counseling or other community resources are available to assist the youth and their family to meet identified needs. The intent of programming in youth custody is to address issues which may have contributed to the youth's illegal behaviour and thereby facilitate the successful reintegration into the community.
The primary youth worker is the contact person for family and/or legal guardians. The worker liaises with Youth Justice Services and helps youth and their family / legal guardians make plans and set goals aimed at reducing criminal behaviour.
There is an assessment period for each young person entering custody which provides the youth and youth custody staff an opportunity to get to know each other.
Access to the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate is available to any young person in custody.
What is a case conference?
Case conferences are meetings in which youth, the primary youth worker and others discuss individual case plan and progress. The first case conference is held within two weeks after admission. After that, they take place monthly. Usual participants are: youth, parents and/or guardians, Youth Justice Worker, Community Youth Worker, and any person from other agencies who may be involved in the case plan. Taking part in monthly case conferences is important to help everyone see progress.
What are the different kinds of programming?
Youth Centre staff are available to assist and support the personal growth of youth. Programs are offered that will assist a youth to meet their needs and those of their family. All youth participate in day programs. The types of activities and programs vary. The programs will help youth with their education, daily living, and help prepare them for further education or employment. Several clubs and recreational activities are also available including weight club, camp, arts/crafts, and woodworking. An Indigenous youth can be assigned an Indigenous Case Worker to assist in navigating the court system and reintegration to the community.
Youth are encouraged to help identify programs which would best suit their needs. There are four programs available:
- Individual Academic Program
- Grade Equivalency Diploma Program (GED)
- Employability Skills Program
- Other Specialized Programs
Youth work at their own academic level. Tutoring is available to help youth reach their educational goals.
Youth advise their Primary Youth Worker if attending church services is important. Youth can request to contact their spiritual advisor at any time and, if approved, may attend church with family or Youth Centre staff.
Sessions are led by youth workers to assist residents with basic life skills, such as:
- Cooking / Baking
- Sewing / Mending
- Passive and Active Recreation
- Personal Hygiene
Information sessions may include:
The HELP program stands for Helping Educate for Life's Problems and was named by a former resident. This program is held weekly in a group setting. It provides information on substance abuse, crime prevention, personal wellness, self improvement, anger management, and other topics relevant to youth. If a session raises questions, concerns, or feelings that are uncomfortable bringing up in the group, youth may be given a choice to participate in individualized HELP sessions with program staff.
Youth can use the Youth Centre's gym and games room and may also have access to activities in the Courtyard. They work on personal fitness through both individual and group activity. Youth in Open Custody may earn the privilege of accessing resources in the community.
Pre-employment programs provide an opportunity to develop practical employment skills. Youth Centre placements include general cleaning of areas used by the public, such as the gymnasium and general maintenance- related tasks. Community placements are specific to the individual's needs and interests and are based on presenting risks, and needs, and availability of constant supervision.
Youth Centre programs are designed to promote safety and good health. All Youth Centre staff are trained in First Aid and CPR, and use of the AED (Automated External Defibrillator). Youth workers receive training in Mental Health First Aid, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, Trauma Informed Care, and other core training courses.
Youth receive a health assessment by a nurse when admitted to the Youth Centre, and referrals are made to a nurse practitioner or doctor whenever necessary. Parents and/or legal guardians are informed of any medical concerns during a young person’s stay. Medical and mental health services are provided to all youth at the Youth Centre. These services may also include: dental, optical, psychological and psychiatric care. Referrals are made to community based resources where appropriate.
Who can visit youth at the Youth Centre?
Contact with Family and Significant Others
Family members/legal guardians and significant persons in a youth’s life may be permitted to visit. The people on a youth’s visitation and phone list must be approved by their Youth Worker, Supervisor, Youth Justice Worker, parents and/or guardians. There are regularly scheduled visiting times for residents.
Once youth have completed an assessment period and have shown that they are working toward their case plan, youth may be considered for "authorized leave" under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA). This is called "Reintegration Leave". It is designed to prepare a youth to return to their family and community when they are released from custody. Reintegration Leave must be planned in advance and may be authorized for the following reasons:
- Home visits
- Rehabilitation and treatment programs
- Medical appointments
- Community service work
- Work or school attendance
- Humanitarian reasons
Who can I call form more information?
Provincial Manager Custody Programs
Telephone: (902) 569-7680
Fax: (902) 569-7711