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The Youth Criminal Justice Act: New Directions and Implementation Issues

Barnhorst, Richard
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) Special issue, “The Youth Criminal Justice Act,” Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice/Revue canadienne de criminologie et de justice pénale. 46(3): 231-250.

This article explains some of the Youth Criminal Justice Act’s key provisions and policy directions. It also identifies implementation issues that can significantly influence how the youth justice system operates under the YCA. Major objectives of the act include reducing the use of the youth court and reducing the use of incarceration.
The YCJA emphasizes restraint, accountability, proportionality, and greater structuring of the discretion of decision makers. It contains provisions to encourage the use of extrajudicial measures, including a presumption that non-violent first offenders should be dealt with through extrajudicial measures. Conferences are recognized as a potentially useful means of improving decision making. Pre-trial detention is prohibited for child welfare purposes and presumed to be unnecessary if the youth could not be sentenced to custody. The sentencing principles set out a new approach to sentencing. Sentences must be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and, within the limits of proportionality, must promote rehabilitation. The sentencing provisions also place specific restrictions on the use of custody.

Implementation issues include appropriate use of available funding, the risk of net-widening, the adequacy of provincial policies and guidelines for police and prosecutors, conditions of release, and the interpretation of provisions related to proportionality, rehabilitation, and restrictions on custody. Author’s abstract.


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