Punishments for youth crime aren’t serious enough in Canada
Youth crime is an ever-present issue in Canadian society but without a doubt has remained on the backburner of Canadian politics. Neglected by the government and the judicial system, it isn’t a surprise that this issue still has a huge impact on our national community.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act, a Canadian statute that came into effect on Apr. 1, 2003, was established primarily to combat this problem by taking a passive approach. The aim was to understand what provokes a delinquent’s actions. However, ultimately, the Youth Criminal Justice Act is too lenient in regards to serious youth crime.
No one can deny that many adolescents don’t have the maturity to sufficiently understand their actions. With incentives such as peer pressure or a continual lack of strict authority, many young offenders fall into the trap of first committing lighter crimes. As such, this judicial system aims to understand the circumstances that lead to their criminal actions, taking a more optimistic approach to dealing with the adolescent.
Additionally, crime is a part of the public domain and the government is responsible for helping these disillusioned youth better function in their community through empathetic means. There are a large number of optimists who feel that other convictions such as open custody, community service and psychological aid will teach youths to respect the law as well as society. Therefore, the goal of this lenient system is to address their developmental problems and social needs in order to create successful law-abiding citizens.
Nevertheless, you must acknowledge that it is a mistake to believe that these youth don’t have the capacity to fully comprehend the extent of their criminal actions.
There are individuals who understand the limitations of our criminal system and take advantage of the court’s generosity. It’s true that youth who commit very serious crimes, such as murder, receive similar judgment as adults who commit the same crime. However, those cases are exceptions, as the majority of serious youth crimes involve drugs, weapons or forms of assault.
There are a number of problems with these so-called rehabilitative programs. Firstly, they don’t have a huge effect on the majority of first-time delinquents. In 2011, close to 60 per cent of youth who had committed violent crimes re-offended in less than two years. Yet, the courts remain lenient towards serious crime. One example is the decline in prison sentences for serious youth crime, which have decreased by 25 per cent. Still, there have been more violent youth offences in recent years than ten years ago. Clearly these individuals are not changing their behaviour and still remain threats to their communities.
In addition, the convictions of adolescents who re-offend do not reflect the seriousness of their crimes, and it is an injustice for their victims.
Re-offenders of violent crimes get little to no jail time for subsequent offences as the courts have a preference towards reintegration programs. Undoubtedly, it’s not hard to realize that prison sentences are a court’s last resort. However, one case I wish to bring up is that of a 17-year-old male student who had committed his second sexual assault in the bathroom of his Woodville high school. Although this circumstance was his second offence within four years, he received a sentence of only 18 months of strict probation. His victim, however, felt that this conviction did not bring her any justice.
The main problem I wish to bring forth is that the majority of serious crime re-offenders have already gone through these programs, which failed to rehabilitate their actions.
Lastly, the majority of these crimes have a large impact on the community and lenient convictions ensure these delinquents return to society much earlier. For example, there was a case in Toronto concerning a 16-year-old student who brought a loaded 9-mm pistol and a sack of cocaine and marijuana to the school.
His actions not only had an impact on his school and the student body but also the educational system that monitors student safety. The court’s emphasis on the individual rather than their community is unjustifiable. This increase in youth crime gives Canadian society the idea that there is a lack of security within the public domain. Unquestionably, the actions of these delinquents, no matter how naïve, have a real impact on our society.
Like many adults, young offenders do not concern themselves with the consequences of their actions. In addition, the leniency of the youth criminal courts ensures that these individuals rarely receive strict convictions. Without a change in the Youth Criminal Justice Act, we will not find a decrease in the severity of youth crime. In the end, without a proper form of punishment, how can we expect anyone to change their criminal behaviour?