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The Young Offenders Act

The federal government of Canada fifteen years ago, in 1984, the Liberal party changed the Juvenile Delinquents Acts to the Youth Offenders Act to have a More human approach to the rights of young people before the law(Leschild and Jaffe, 8:1991). In the present such as Premier, Mike Harris, of Ontario wants the federal government of Canada to scrap the Young Offenders Act. In 1999, the same party that came up with the act is making majors changes to the act.

This report will look at the young offenders act at the present time, look at why kids commit crime, what is being done to improve the act, what has the province done towards teenagers and also a look at the United Sates youth system. The YOA the Young Offenders Act, which replaced the 75 years old Juvenile Delinquents Act in 1984, came into effect because since the courts where acting in the best interest of the children, little attention was paid to the rights of the children (Dickinson et al, 1996: 403).

This had to be changed because of the new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom which was passed in 1982 stated that in section 15 that equality before the law without discrimination based on age (Dickinson and others, 1996:744). The changes that were made to the YOA were that age that a child under the age of 11 could not be held criminal responsible. While between the age of 12-17 he or she could be held partial criminal responsible. Once you reached the age of 18, an adult you were full criminally responsible (Dickinson, 404:1996).

If a young offender is sent to court the detail of the crime may be published, but the young persons name or a young witness name could not be identified. The reason for this was for young people to have another chance in life if they screw up and also to protect a young persons identity especially a witness (Justice Canada, 19:1988). Why do kids commit crime, they are many answers but are there any correct answers to that question. Andree Ruffo is a youth court judge in Pointe-Claire, Quebec.

She believes that kids commit crime and have to appear in court because of expressing themselves or trying to tell someone that their something wrong with their life, or their needs are not being met. She also feels that parents have a lot of problems on their own as she stated that Many parents havent found themselves. So when it comes to giving to children, they have no time, their exhausted(Ruffo, 1:1994). While Marcia Kaye thinks that adolescents that turn to crimes or the street have faced sexual abuse and/or physical abuse.

Kaye goes on to say that Even through parents have been loving attentive, children will choose a life of prostitution, drugs, and violence (Kayne, 50,late 80,s). Toronto defence counsel Bill Trudell said it best when he said We dont we just recognise in this country we have kids who dont ask to be brought into this world, who have all kinds of pressures we dont even imagine and who arent Martians, theyre kids? Allmand who is one of the most left-wing Liberals on social issues, said that is a disintegration of the family and it is translating into the kind of problems youths are experiencing today (Tyler, Insight: 1994).

Since 1995, a year after the YOA came into effect; all areas of offences have increased. This would included all persons ages 17 and under or less charged with an offence that was dealt with informally by the police. The total of all offence in 1985 was at 188,958 and by the year 1989 it had jumped to 225, 766 so an increase of 36,808 in just 4 years. A big suprise was in the rise in numbers of the Drug offence. In 1985, it was at 4,290 and in 1986 it jumped up to 4,767, but by the year 1989 it was at 4,253. In that 5 year period it decreased by 43 but at least it is a start in one area (Ruffo, 4,1994).

But it is not really young people committing the crimes because a Canadian centre for judicial statistics stated that 16 and 17 year olds commit most of the crimes. For example in 1992-1994 there were 42 murders and 25 of them or 60 percent were committed by 16 and 17 years old. Another good example is aggravated assault, which in the same year 311 were committed but 16 and 17 year olds committed 212, which was 68% of them. Another fact was that 50% of youths, 16 and 17 year olds that were charged, had pervious criminal histories, compared with the 14 and 15 yeas old with 42%, and the 12 and 13 years old with 25%.

These states show that children as they grow could be repeat offenders. In 1992, 12 to 17 year olds who represent 7. 5% of the population (< biblio >) committed 30 % of the crimes. Just to add to all this in a survey in the Ottawa area, showed that 21 percent of students carried weapons in school (Wilson-Smtih, 15: 1994). In a Macleans magazine in 1994, an article named Under the Gun and it reads small letters Will the Liberals get tough on young offenders. It only took five years later, but 5 years ago Justice Minister Allan Rock stated that he agrees, but there have to be more effective deferments (Wilson-Smtih, 13:1994).

In another article he stated that we are not going to tolerate violence by any age group(Steward, A1: 1994). It only took five years to introduce the recent changed to the YOA. Some of the changes include lowering the age of the young offenders from 14 to 12 years olds where kids would be tried as an adult from the court. Another change is that the media will be able to publish the names of all young offenders, 14 and older, which receive adult sentences from the court. Another big change to all this is that parents will now be at fault if their kids commit again under their supervision.

Such offence will see the parents sentence to 2 years in jail instead of the 6 months. This should show that a message is being sent to the responsibility for a young offenders is serious commitment or and a fine up to two thousand dollars (Baglole, Internet: 1999). Some other changes are that victims would be allowed to see the young offender crime file and help in the deciding of the sentencing process. Youth would also be put right away on mandatory probation after being released from custody. The Justice Minister Anne McLellan said that she Took a more balanced approach(Ed-kidcrime, Internet: 1999)

A change is the provincial governments new Violence-free School Policy that came in effect in June of 1994. It is that when a child behaves poorly in school his record will follow him/her if we move from one school to another telling the principals about past behaviour of new students. The record will be kept in the office for at least three years. The reason for all this is that Students must realise their actions will have consequences  said the Former education and training minister David Cooke and he went on to say This is what we mean by zero tolerance.

Another change is that if a report of a violent incident involving a student that is 12 or older, it must be reported to the police. The board is also required to keep track of all incidents and send the results to the education ministry on a yearly basis. This example of what the province of Ontario is doing to crack down on Young Offenders in the school system (Daly, 1994:A13). If cracking down hard on the young offenders worked, the United States should be the safest country to live in, but it is the most violent. The U. S. w tries a child at the age of 13 years old in adult court and also has some of the harsh sentences, such as shipping them to boot camps or even harsh correctional facilities (Ed-Kidcrime, 1999: Internet).

Some of the changes that our friends have made to their system are in one state Florida. Florida has passed a law last year making it illegal for 16 year olds to drive after 11pm(Diamond, 1999: Internet). The U. S. has give up on boot camps because of the high rate of recidivism has led to many U. S. jurisdiction (Landsberg, 1999:Internet) The U. S. now using a new program which has been cutting the number of new crimes committed by teenagers as much as 70%. The provincial government is now using this program.

This program is known as MultiSystemic Therapy or MST, which is working the problem with the troubled kid. You are in the kids home almost every second day and Kelly McDonnell, a clinical supervisor for Peel area said, You are in there. You are getting to the bottom of the problem(Tyler, 1998: Internet). The Youth Offenders Act is a hot issue. On any given day you can not open up a newspaper or turn on a T. V and not find an article or a broadcast about the Young Offenders Act.

The government has started to make changes, but could more changes be done or even faster? .  The question will these changes make it better or turn it into a worst system then it is at the present, only the future will tell. Who is to blame for the youth offenders of this country could it be the parents who sometime do not have too much control of them or who do not care or known what their kids are doing are could we blame the media for influencing their minds. Let put a stop to youth crime and help these children before they get into trouble with the law.

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