Whitehorse Daily Star

Territory leads nation in youth incarceration

A new report says the Yukon has the highest youth incarceration rate in Canada.

By Emily Blake on March 8, 2017

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.

Comments (6)

Up 2 Down 6

Ban JC from your site please on Mar 14, 2017 at 12:38 pm

Dear mr. jc, you have never been a fn person, you will never be a fn person, you don't have a clue not a single solitary clue what most fn people have to go through on a daily basis. You have no appreciation for the history of fn people before contact with people like you. We were a proud, independent, resourceful people before contact and will be again.

Up 5 Down 2

Anonymous on Mar 13, 2017 at 8:26 pm

Hmmmmm eggs.... You do not really know many young people do you or only a small number of youth.... I must say say I know a large number. The majority are wonderful, fine, upstanding people with excellent moral compasses.... And then you get a few who only think of themselves and what makes them feel good at the time. A few only care about themselves and a few friends rather than any types of rules or what is better for the greater good. Sad but true.

Up 29 Down 7

jc on Mar 9, 2017 at 11:55 am

Get used to it folks, its not going to get better but worse. We Yukoners know however, who is committing most of the crimes up here, but aren't allowed to say because of politically correctness and human rights discrimination laws. So let's just suck it up.

Up 23 Down 4

June Jackson on Mar 9, 2017 at 9:31 am

Holy cow..we have that many adult criminals coming our way? Because that's the future for thieving kids.. once stealing, break and enters, violence becomes their way of life.. it IS their way of life no matter what age they are.. The last time this happened the government.. I THINK it was Piers..might not have been, simply changed all the laws so less young people went to incarceration.

Today, there really isn't any punishments or deterrents to a criminal life... I think they don't really get it until they end up in the big boys prisons.. THEN they understand.. that's the line of demarcation..they either absorb that life, or they are never ever going there again and change up their lives. In any case, I don't care what the national stats are. Do the crime.. do the time. While it's not REALLY time, they are in a place other than mine.

Up 29 Down 4

Tom Stevens on Mar 9, 2017 at 7:58 am

Wow.. this is a shocker...

Imagine having a community with ridiculous rates of drug and alcohol use among youth, enabling parents, a school system that continually lowers the bar and has little behavior support, a community that seems to view rules as options and you can connect the dots as to why you have so many kids in jail.... no study needed

Up 13 Down 4

eggs on Mar 8, 2017 at 7:15 pm

H and SS may want to get some accurate stats or a better calculator.

"On an average day, seven youth were serving custody sentences and 25 community sentences".

I don't think so.

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