The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) To Youth Offenders In Canada

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The Youth Criminal Justice Act, enacted in 2003, has had considerable implications for youth offenders, especially in sentencing procedures. However, in 2012 Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his administration made significant punitive amendments that changed the application of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) to youth sentencing procedures in Canada. This essay will first discuss a brief history of Canadian legislation regarding youth offenders, and the general characteristics and effectiveness of the YCJA within its first decade of existence. Then, it will highlight the changes made by the Harper administration to the YCJA, and the implications of those changes, using evidence of the cycle of juvenile reoffending through imprisonment…show more content…
The inappropriate or unnecessary use of incarceration is “expensive, ineffective, and inhumane,” and initiates a “cycle of juvenile reoffending” (Bala et. al, 2009). A study conducted by Mann (2014) exemplifies this cycle of youth reoffending. The youth interviewed demonstrated that despite a stay in sentenced custody, the threat of future punishment was not enough to deter from future offences. Cook and Roesch (2012) demonstrate that youth have developmental limitations that can impair their involvement in the justice system; for example, not understanding their sentencing options properly or their competence to stand trial. Therefore, deterrence as a justification for youth incarceration is ineffective, as incarceration proves to be not a strong enough deterrent. Alternative methods such as extrajudicial measures and community-based sanctions were considered more effective (Cook & Roesch,…show more content…
Central to the main proportionality principle of the YCJA was that extrajudicial measures should address the rehabilitative needs of the youth offender as a proportionate response to the offence (Barnhorst, 2004). The strong emphasis on rehabilitation under the original provisions of the YCJA was intended to “direct judges toward the use of alternative sanctions and away from the imposition of terms of imprisonment” (Roberts, 2003). Alternative sanctions such as community-based programs or extrajudicial measures allow youth to stay out of the formal criminal justice system, preventing the negative impact of incarceration that contributes to youth

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