Introduction – Name of program, location.

Over the last forty years, youth justice policy has been working on the diversion of young offenders from the criminal justice system in Canada. Diversion programs have been effective over this period in limiting state intervention into the lives of young people. Halton Youth Justice Program Was established by the Halton Regional Police Service to foster and promote a healthy community by providing effective and timely intervention with at-risk youths. It is located in Halton Regional Police Service Headquarters, 1151 Bronte Road in Oakville. It is fully accessible and serves the whole of Halton area (Burlington Post, 2018).

Authority for Program – Criminal Code and YCJA sections

The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) was introduced on April 1, 2003, and replaced the then functioning Young Offenders Act (YOA). The main aim of the YCJA is to minimize the use of court processes on youths by introducing alternative ways. There were concerns that there were a significant number of less serious charges that was passing through the court whereas there could be other ways to deal with them effectively and quickly. What sets YCJA apart from YOA is that YCJA outlines the extrajudicial measures that can be employed and also their objectives. Crown Attorneys are mandated to conduct various extrajudicial measures in part 1 of the YCJA (sections 4-12). Such measures may include Extrajudicial sanctions, Crown caution, Referral to a community program or agency and withdrawal of the charge. These programs are all legal by virtue of section 165(5) of the YCJA. According to the Section 5 of the YCJA, extrajudicial measures should be designed to be equivalent to the weight of the offense, respect the freedoms and rights of the young people and encourage the participation of the loved ones and the community (Innocent, 2013).

 Purpose of the program – what community and individual needs are addressed?

The HYJP pre-charge diversion program was established to give the police officers the mandate to remove the court process for young individuals who committed minor criminal offenses. Basically, it was designed to allow an alternative way to hold the youths accountable but in a timely and effective manner (Innocent, 2013). Mainly, this program is designed to be less costly than the court process for it frees up the limited resources that would have been used had the court process been followed and also reduces caseload on officers. HYJP aims at reducing the occurrence of the problem or recidivism without necessarily having to process the individuals formally in the court systems. The program ensures that the youths are restored and new alternative pathways for at-risk youth as well as creating a healthier and a safer environment where the community can reconnect with the individuals (Burlington Post, 2018).

Clients served – who and how many?

The HYJP program is mainly offered to the youth within the age bracket of 12 to 17 years who have never been on charges before. The crimes committed by these youths are mainly minor or non-violent such as possession of a drug substance, assault, burglary, fraud, property damage, vandalism, and shoplifting. The individuals are held responsible for their crimes and it is dictated that they must take full responsibility for the crime. One is termed to be in a contracted while in the program and there might be curfews depending with the type of the crime which may involve staying away from certain places, completing an assignment, respecting parent’s rules or participating in a community service work. Failure to meet all the terms one is sent to court for the formal process. Last year HYJP had 70 youths and 64 completed the program successfully while the remaining four were charged (Burlington Post, 2018).

The effectiveness of the program – is success studied and recorded?

An analysis was conducted in 2008 and the success rate was 94.3 percent with 66 youths out of 70 youths completing the contract successfully. The main deciding factors are whether a youth shows remorse for the crime and takes responsibility for Burlington Post, 2018).

Analysis and Critique – your informed views about the value of this program?

The HYJP program has made positive impacts not only on the Youths under the contract but also on the community surrounding its location. Youths have transitioned to better individuals after in-house specialized programs and other support services. The program is flexible enough to meet the needs of the community and the individuals. All youths under the program are given a chance of understanding others and also being accountable for their actions. The officers who run the program understand that the most crucial element of such process is the accountability to self, community and the victim and this plays a huge part in preventing recidivism.

Conclusion

Youth diversion programming is effective in reducing recidivism rates among the young people. The main elements of a successful youth diversion program are police acceptance, youth accountability, and responsibility, mentoring and a community centered collaborative approach. Since the majority of the youths in this program lie between 12 to 13 years of age accused of offenses mainly mischief, theft under $5000 and assault, HYJP should come up with public awareness campaigns targeting this age groups so as to prevent future incidences. Also, diversion programs should follow up youths who have been under a contract and determine the reoffending rates so as to provide a precise credibility to diversion programs.

 

References

Burlington Post., (2018). Diversion program gives youths ‘a second chance’. [online] InsideHalton.com. Available at: https://www.insidehalton.com/news-story/2947229-diversion-program-gives-youths-a-second-chance-/ [Accessed 6 Oct. 2018].

Innocent, N. (2013). Factors influencing police attitudes towards extrajudicial measures under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Canadian Journal of Criminology & Criminal Justice, 50(4), 469-489.

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