A new report says the Yukon has the highest youth incarceration rate in Canada.
The report was released by Statistics Canada last Wednesday.
It indicates that the territory’s youth incarceration rate in 2015/2016 was 29 per 10,000 youth. The average rate among the reported jurisdictions was five.
For the third year in a row, the Yukon also had the highest proportion of youth court guilty cases that resulted in a custodial sentence.
On an average day, seven youth were serving custody sentences and 25 community sentences.
While most jurisdictions showed decreases in this daily rate, the Yukon had the highest increase, at 54 per cent.
The only other province or territory that reported a boost was Nunavut, at four per cent. The Northwest Territories reported an 18 per cent drop.
In the Yukon, youth justice falls under the Department of Health and Social Services.
Spokesperson Pat Living said the high rates are attributable to the Yukon’s relatively small population.
“We hesitate to make comparisons because our numbers are so small,” she told the Star last Friday.
“If we have one person one year and then two the next year, that’s a 100 per cent increase.”
She said other reasons that may account for the increase include changes in police practice, court practice and variations in crime.
“There’s a fairly wide variation in the Yukon figures,” she explained.
“This is in contrast with the national rates that have been steadily declining since the late 1990s.”
She noted looking at the 2011/2012 figures, only 10 per cent of youth guilty cases resulted in a custody sentence. Previously it was 30 per cent, and the following year, it was 26 per cent.
Custodial sentences for youth in the territory are served at the Young Offenders Facility in Whitehorse. It has 14 beds, 10 in secure custody and four in open custody.
A total of 98 youth were admitted to custody in the territory over the past year and 66 in community supervision.
While admission rates in other jurisdictions fell, Yukon had the highest increase, at 80 per cent.
Living said there was a notable increase in the number of female youth at the facility, but noted many of the admissions are accounted for by youth on remand and repeat entries.
“We have a number of young people who were admitted, but of those who were admitted, only six or seven were actually sentenced,” she explained.
According to part one of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, extrajudicial measures are often the most appropriate and effective way to address youth crime as they “allow for effective and timely interventions focusing on correcting behaviour” and are presumed to be adequate if it was a non-violent first offence.
Youth serving open custody sentences in the territory have access to community programming provided by the Youth Achievement Centre. Those include education, fitness and nutrition, woodworking, and the Wildnerness Wellness Program and Summer Work Crew program.
Programming for youth in secure custody includes education, aboriginal cultural programming, life skills, recreation, and clinical group and individual therapy.
Nationally, 16,545 youth were in custody or community supervision.
Most were male, at 75 per cent, and 17-year-olds made up the largest age group, at 31 per cent.
Aboriginal youth accounted for 35 per cent of youth in provincial and territorial corrections, a six per cent increase from the previous year.
Figures from certain jurisdictions were excluded from the report due to the unavailability of data.