Canada’s tough on crime government has quietly cut funding from youth justice programs meant to rehabilitate young offenders. They will still be funding transfers to the provinces to rehabilitate young offenders, but the transfers are being cut by 20 percent, the transfers have been in place since 1984. The cuts will take effect in April of 2013.
The Minister of Justice, Rob Nicholson, announced the government’s continued support for youth justice services on June 27 without mentioning the cut of $35.6 million.
Less money, of course, means fewer options for judges when it comes to sentencing young people, unless the provinces take on the extra cost themselves – unlikely in this age of deficits. Unfortunately, a lack of programs for rehabilitation and reintegration into society will mean more youth moving through the system as adults. Jailing instead of rehabilitating will wind up costing the government more when they sit in prison.
According the the Canada Council on Social Development (CCSD), Canada already has the highest rate of youth incarceration in the Western world even though studies have shown that incarceration increases the risk of re-offending. The CCSD quotes a project that took place in Massachusetts between 1970 and 1972. During that time the focus was solely on rehabilitation for young offenders. There were mentoring programs and skills development. A study by Harvard University found that offenses were reduced by 30 percent.
The CCSD states that Canada took measures to reduce youth incarceration, introducing the Youth Criminal Justice Act to replace the Young Offenders Act, but now the Harper government is taking a step back.
Along with the cuts to transfers for rehabilitation programs, the Harper Tories have also introduced tougher sentences for young offenders in the omnibus budget bill, C-38. The Quebec government fought back against the changes, as that province focuses heavily on rehabilitation, but their protests fell on deaf ears.
The Tories say they are focusing on the ‘protection of society,’ but these changes show more of the short-sightedness we see consistently with this government.
Photo Credit: Jason Bain