The Youth Criminal Justice Act Essay

The Youth Criminal Justice Act Essay

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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 and the effectiveness of extrajudicial measures to argue against the YCJA amendments. Sentencing procedures for youth offenders in Canada under the Youth Criminal Justice Act were originally successful in achieving the primary objectives. However, the more punitive turn in sentencing procedures initiated by the Harper administration has had a negative impact on youth offenders and detracts from the overall success of the YCJA, as incarcerative sentences have been proven to lead to higher rates of youth recidivism as compared to extrajudicial measures.
The predecessor to the YCJA was the Youth Offenders Act (YOA), enacted in 1984. Entering the new millennium, there were numerous concerns about the effectiveness of the YOA. There were large numbers of minor cases going to court, of which a majority resulted in a sentence of imprisonment. (Doob & Sprott, 2005). By the beginning of the 21st century, Canada had “one of the lowest rates of youth diversion and one of the highest rates of youth cust...


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...mportant function of keeping youth out of the formal criminal justice system. The more punitive turn in sentencing procedures has been demonstrated to have a substantial negative impact on youth offenders, to a substantial extent that contradicts the “tough-on-crime” approach that the Harper administration enforced. While the goal of reducing the numbers of youth in incarceration was effectively achieved during the first decade of implementation, the original intent YCJA was substantially weakened by the Harper amendments. Youth justice issues remain controversial in Canada, especially in regards to sentencing procedures (Bala et. al, 2009). The fine line between punitive sentencing and the proper positive use of alternative community and extrajudicial measures is difficult to discern, yet the original Youth Criminal Justice Act was a step in the right direction.


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