Young Offenders in Canadian Law
Juvenile offenses have brought up a lot of controversy in Canadian law with disagreements pertaining to the trial system of young offenders. The controversy is based on the types of punishments to be given and how severe they should be. Before 1908, young lawbreakers received the same punishments as adult criminals even in misdemeanor cases (Samuelson 1). They were also detained in adult prisons while they waited to be tried and sentenced.
The juvenile act in 2003 however took a welfare move regarding young criminals whose oversight is to treat young offenders as misdirected children and not as criminals since they are believed to lack the ability to control their actions as adults would. Hence there is a difference between the youth and the adult justice systems in many aspects with the young people getting a lot of preferences with respect to accountability measures, protection procedures and rehabilitation process.
It deals more with rehabilitation by preventing and treating the youth in safe amenities. The provision of protection and rehabilitation services for young offenders is based on age and the type of crime committed. If punishments are given, they should be fair and reinforce the values of society (Makarenko 1). This act aims to:
- Establish a trial system for the young offenders, the young justice system which is different from that of adult criminals whose objective is to prevent and reduce cases of crime;
- Give juvenile court judges a parental law based on rehabilitation rather than punishment to help enhance successful adulthood for the youth;
- Prevent trial of juveniles below the age of seven;
- Persuade parents to get involved in the rehabilitation course;
- Increase judicial options which would set good behavior to young people putting into consideration that the young person lacks enough levels of maturity;
- Introduce justice committees for the youth which are aimed at providing solutions to young offenders in society.
However, there have been amendment proposals aimed at ensuring that repeat juvenile offenders are held responsible for the crimes they commit and this would help in the contribution of protection among the society members. The proposed amendments are aimed at improving the protection of society. This is a key objective of the legislation. Secondly, they are aimed at keeping young offenders off the streets while they wait for their trials in order to protect society, especially from violent juveniles.
It is also aimed at sentencing young offenders who have committed serious crimes such as murder in adult prisons. Pen ultimately, it is aimed at imposing sentences or punishments that would completely discourage the youth from committing the same offense again and lastly, it will keep the public aware of the violent youths for protection purposes by putting juvenile offenders into youth facilities even in the case that the child had been tried as an adult (Samuelson 1).
This act has however made some changes to the current one on the system of sentencing the young offenders. These changes involve permitting judges to give adult sentences to the youth instead of transferring them to adult courts as they wait to be trialed. The age at which youth should be sentenced as adults has also been reduced from sixteen to fourteen involving all charges of murder and sexual harassment. A lot of emphasis is however being put to rehabilitating aggressive young offenders in their interests and those of society.
The approach towards rehabilitation of young criminals has had a lot of positive effects on many children who have encountered the juvenile justice system. Cases of crime by the youth have decreased as the young persons are being rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society and in doing so, protecting the society. In place of incarceration, the young justice system has increased supervision of youths in the community which helps instill good behavior among the young (Norval 1). Alternatively, extrajudicial measures have been used in place of imprisonment to teach responsibility and accountability among the offenders.
Several negative impacts have, however, been experienced. For instance, judges may give different sentences for the same crime due to a provision that gives every province the right to set the legal age for youth sentencing. There is the risk of abuse of juveniles by the staff member in institutions that deal with young offenders.
There are high possibilities of violent youths becoming repeat offenders in case they are incarcerated when young due to serious crimes (Makarenko 1). Another major problem facing the juvenile justice system is the inadequacy of both staff and facilities to help in the rehabilitation of the young offenders. Ethnicity and racism have also been a major setback in the rehabilitation process generating injustice.
The society, therefore, should be responsible for the young members by addressing their needs and the challenges facing them. Youth crime can be prevented by both family members and the society by paying attention to their needs, guiding and supporting them where necessary. The youth should be educated on the youth justice system to make them understand what action will be taken on them if they commit such crimes.
Makarenko, Jay. “Youth Justice in Canada: History and Debates.” 2007. Web.
Norval, Henry. “Juvenile Crime Resulting in Sentencing as an Adult.” 2010. Web.
Samuelson, Davis. “Young offenders to be tried as adults.” 2010. Web.