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Youth Criminal Justice Act: New Directions and Implemenation Issues

Barnhorst, Richard
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice. 46(3): 231-250.

The YCJA views the primary objective of the juvenile justice system as holding juveniles accountable in a fair way for the offense committed. Accountability occurs through the imposition of significant consequences and measures that will promote the rehabilitation and reintegration of the juvenile into society while ensuring public safety. Accountability must be fair and proportionate and consistent with the greater dependency and reduced maturity of juveniles. The act requires that consequences be proportionate to the seriousness of the offenses and the degree of responsibility of the juvenile for the harm caused. Under the YCJA, Parliament has made clear that the youth justice system under the YOA relied too much on court processing as the response to juvenile crime. A major objective of the YCJA is to reduce the use of formal court processing, particularly for less serious offenses. The YCJA has introduced the concept of conferences, which are defined as a group of people convened to give advice to a decisionmaker under the act. Decisionmakers include judges, prosecutors, police officers, the Provincial Director, youth workers, and justices of the peace. Conferences may be used to assist in decisions related to extrajudicial measures, judicial interim release, sentencing, and reintegration plans. Another major objective of the YCJA is to reduce the use of incarceration for juveniles. This objective is reflected not only at the sentencing stage but also at the stage of pretrial-detention decisions. Some of the signs that the YCJA is being implemented in the daily operation of the youth justice system are the implementation of innovative community programs and reports of a reduction in the use of the courts and custody to manage the response to juvenile offending. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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