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Chapter 12

PSYC 2400 Chapter 12: CH12 Readings - Young Offenders

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PSYC 2400
Adelle Forth

Chapter 12 Readings: Assessment and Treatment of Young Offenders  Adolescents older than age 12 and younger than age 18 (generally) who come into contact with the criminal justice system pose several challenges to the adult-based system  Legislation has changed over the years in an attempt to address the special needs of adolescents  It is critical to consider the developmental paths to youthful offending in order to prevent and rehabilitate  A number of treatment options have been developed for young offenders  Anyone younger than age 12 who engages in criminal acts is processed through family and social service agencies, usually under provincial or territorial legislation Historical Overview th th th  Youth who committed criminal acts in Canada during the 17 , 18 and 19 centuries were treated as adult offenders  The criminal justice system made no accommodations or considerations for how youth were charged, sentenced, or incarcerated  They were kept in the same facilities as adults while awaiting their trials, received the same penalties as adults, and served their sentences with adults  Canada enacted the Juvenile Delinquents Act in 1908 partly in response to the justice system’s past disregard for the special population of youthful offenders  The JDA applied to children and youth between the ages of 7 and 16 (age 18 in some jurisdictions)  Terminology was used to reflect a difference between youth and adults  Youth were called delinquents rather than offenders, and were considered to commit acts of delinquency, such as truancy, rather than criminal offences  A separate court system for youth was established and it was suggested that court proceedings be as informal as possible in that delinquents were seen as misguided children in need of guidance and support  Parents were encouraged to be part of the judicial process  In serious cases the JDA made it possible for delinquents to be transferred to adult court  Punishments for delinquents were to be consistent with how a parent would discipline a child  Other dispositions included adjournment without penalty, fines, probation, and foster care  Many saw the JDA as a positive step toward youth justice, however the JDA was not without critics  The services to be provided to delinquents as outlined in the JDA were not always available  Also, given the informality of youth court, some youth were denied their rights, such as the right to counsel and the right to appeal, and judges could impose open-ended sentences  The broad definition of delinquency included acts that were not illegal for adults  The JDA was in effect until 1984, when it was replaced with the Young Offenders Act  The YOA represented a shift in ow youth who broke the law were perceived  Youth were to be held responsible for their actions, however the YOA acknowledged that youth were different from adults  The differences between youths and adults were to be recognized based on their level of accountability and the consequences of the behaviour committed  The YOA also recognized the need t protect the public from young offenders  Lastly, the YOA recognized that youths should be afforded all the rights stated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms  Changes in the YOA included the age of criminal responsibility  Under the YOA, youth had to be at least 12 years of age and up to 18 years-old to be processed through child and family services  Some of the changes brought forward with the JDA remained with the YOA  The YOA allowed for youth cased to be diverted  Diversion is a decision not to prosecute the young offender but rather have him or her undergo an educational or community service program  For diversion to be possible, the young offender would have to plead guilty  Other dispositions available for young offenders included absolute discharge, fine, compensation for loss or damaged property, restitution to the victim, prohibition order, community service, probation, and custody  Two types of custody are available: open (placing the youth in a community residential facility, group home, child-care facility, or wilderness camp) or secure (incarcerating the youth in a prison facility)  Bill C-106 o Required the youth court to consider whether the Crown or defence would like to make an application to transfer the case to adult court o Introduced to address the problem of defendants making guilty pleas to avoid transfers  Bill C-37 o 16 and 17 year-olds charged with murder, manslaughter, or aggravated sexual assault would go to adult court o These cases could stay in youth court if the youth court felt the objectives of rehabilitation and public protection could be reconciled o For first-degree murder a ten-year maximum, with a six-year minimum was available o For second-degree murder a seven-year maximum with a four-year minimum to be served incarcerated was available  Overall, the YOA attempted to make youth more accountable for their behaviour, while supporting rehabilitation through treatment programs and providing alternatives to incarceration for less serious crimes  One of the major criticisms of the YOA was that serious, violent offences carried relatively short/light sentences  Other criticisms included disagreement over raising the minimum age of responsibility from age 7 to age 12  The YOA allowed for discrepancies in the factors leading to transfer to adult court that suggest an arbitrariness in how cases were handled st  On April 1 , 2003, the Youth Criminal Justice Act replaced the YOA  The main objectives o To prevent youth crime o To provide meaningful consequences and encourage responsibility of behaviour o To improve rehabilitation and reintegration of youth into the community  With the YCJA there is a movement to keep young offenders out of the court and out of custody  There is an onus on police to consider community outlets and less serious alternatives for youth before bringing them to the attention of youth court  These alternatives are called extrajudicial measures and include giving a warning or making a referral for treatment  A new custodial sentence also became available under the YCJA known as the Intensive Rehabilitative Custody and Supervision order (IRCS) – this sentence was designed to deal with very serious cases where mental health issues exist Naming Youth  Under the current YCJA the name of the youth cannot be reported to the public but rather, can be released only under special circumstances  If the youth convicted is dangerous his or her photo may be published  An exception to releasing a youth’s name or photo also can be made if the youth has not yet been apprehended  Defendants between the ages of 14-17 who are convicted of serious, violent offences, may have their names published and communicated to the public  Sentencing options have increased under the YCJA  Judges are able to provide a reprimand, an intensive support and supervision order, an attendance order, a deferred custody and supervision order, and an intensive rehabilitative custody and supervision order  In terms of transferring youth to adult court, the YCJA has made a number of changes from the process outlined in the YOA  Under the YCJA the transfer process is eliminated  Instead, youth court determines whether the youthful defendant is guilty, and if so, the judge can impose an adult sentence with youth as young as 14 years old  An adult sentence cannot be applied unless the Crown notifies the youth court that it will be seeking an adult sentence  A key issue in determining sentencing is that the sentence must be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence  The YCJA has made a serious attempt at improving the interest of victims  Under the YCJA, victims are to be informed of the court proceedings and given an opportunity to participate  Victims can participate in community-based dispositions Youth Crime Rates  Generally the total number of crimes committed by youth has been decreasing for the past few years – this pattern can also be seen for violent offences  Probation remained the most common sentence provided to youth in youth court  When youth are sentenced to probation, they are given a probation officer or other designated officer that they must check in with, along with any number of other conditions imposed by the court  Over 50% of youth found guilty in court were given probation, either as a stand-alone sentence or in combination with another sentence  In 2010-2011 16% of guilty youth were sentenced to custody, which is a decrease for this type of sentence  Under the YCJA, a two-year maximum sentence can be given to youth  The median length of probation sentences was 365 days  The most common decision in youth court cases was one of guilt  However, over the past 10 years the proportion of cases resulting in a guilty outcome has decreased, while the proportion of cases resulting in a stay or withdrawal has increased Assessment of Young Offenders Assessing Those Under Age 12  Often a clinician will obtain two levels of consent before assessing a child or adolescent  Because children and adolescents are not legally capable of providing consent, consent will be sought from parents/guardians  Following parental consent, assent or agreement to conduct the assessment will also be sought from the child or the adolescent  Children’s and youth’s emotional and behavioural difficulties can be categorized as internalizing or externalizing problems o Internalizing – emotional difficulties such as depression, anxiety, and obsessions experienced by youth o Externalizing – behavioural difficulties such as delinquency, fighting, bullying, lying, or destructive behaviour experienced by a youth  Males are more likely to have externalizing difficulties than females  Internalizing problems should also be assessed and treated might co-occur with externalizing difficulties  To assess externalizing factors, multiple informants are necessary to obtain an accurate assessment because the child/youth may not be aware of his or her behaviour or the influence it has on others  Parents, teachers and peers may be interviewed or asked to rate the child/adolescent  It is important that behaviour be viewed within a developmental context  Three psychiatric diagnoses occur with some frequency in young offenders o Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – a disorder in a youth characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and hyperactivity or impulsivity o Oppositional defiant disorder – a disorder in a youth characterized by a persistent pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behaviours o Conduct disorder – a disorder characterized by a persistent pattern of behaviour in which a youth violates the rights of others or age-appropriate societal norms/rules Assessing the Adolescent  Once an adolescent’s antisocial behaviour receives the attention of the courts, a court- ordered assessment may be issues  The adolescent does not need to provide content/assent  The issue for the courts is to determine what level of risk the young person poses for reoffending  Young offenders are assessed so that resources can be used effectively and the risk to the community is reduced  The instruments used to assess a young offender’s risk generally include a checklist where items are scored on a scale, the points are summed, and a cut-off value is set for either detaining or releasing the young offender  Risk-assessment instruments collect information about a set of factors both static and dynamic  Interviews with the young offender as well as case files and histories may be used to complete a risk assessment  A total risk score is then obtained  Generally the notion is that the more relevant risk factors that are present, the more likely it is that the youth will reoffend  Any number of professionals may be responsible for conducting the risk assessment  The task of identifying risk factors for young offenders who will reoffend is different than for adults  Young offenders simply do not have the years behind them that can be examined  Child and adolescent behaviour may be more influenced by context than enduring character  Children and adolescents may display behaviour that is adaptive to the environment they are in rather than a behaviour that demonstrates their character across all situations  Children and adolescents experience more developmental and character changes than adults  It is a challenge to separate developmental issues form persistent personality and character for the prediction of future offending Rates of Behaviour Disorders in Youth  Approximately 5-15% of children display severe behavioural problems  In the Ontario Child Health Study (1987) o Approximately 18% of the children between the ages of 4-16 were found to experience conduct disorder, hyperactivity, emotional disturbance, or a combination o Researchers have found that behavioural disorders commonly co-occur o 20-50% of children with AD/HD also have symptoms consistent with CD or ODD Trajectories of Young Offenders  When examining the aggressive histories of young offenders, two categories emerge  Young offenders may be categorized as those who started with social transgressions and behavioural problems in very early childhood or those whose problem behaviours emerged in the teen years  Age of onset is a critical factor in the trajectory to adult offending  A number of researchers have found that early onset of antisocial behaviour is related to more serious and persistent antisocial behaviour later in life  Those with a childhood onset also may have a number of other difficulties, such as ADHD, learning disabilities, and academic difficulties  The childhood-onset trajectory is a less frequent occurrence than adolescent onset with about 3-5% of the general population showing a childhood-onset trajectory  Most young children with behavioural difficulties do not go on to become adult offenders  The adolescent-onset pattern occurs in about 70% of the population  Many young people engage in social transgressions during their adolescence, but adolescents who engage in only a few antisocial acts do not qualify for a CD diagnosis  It is more common for adolescent-onset youth to desist their antisocial behaviour in their early adulthood than for those with a childhood onset, however some of these adolescent-onset youth continue to engage in antisocial acts in adulthood  Brame, Nagin, Tremblay (2001) o A group of boys from Montreal were followed from the time they entered kindergarten through their late teen years o The researchers found that their overall level of aggression decreased as they got older, regardless of how high it was when they were younger o For a small proportion of youngsters with high levels of aggression, these high levels continued into their teen years o A much larger proportion of youngsters with high levels of aggression reported little to no aggression in their teen years o For a small group of youngsters with high levels of aggression, these levels will continue into later years Theories to Explain Antisocial Behaviour Biological  Moffit and Henry (1989) o Found that conduct-disordered youth have less frontal lobe inhibition of behaviour o The likelihood that these youth will act impulsively is increased, making it more likely that they will make poor behavioural choices  Physiologically, conduct disordered youth have been found to have slower heart rates than youth who do not engage in antisocial behaviour  Genetic studies have found a relation between paternal antisocial behaviour and child offspring antisocial behaviour  Adoption and twin studies also find a biological link to youthful offending  Children who have an antisocial biological father are more likely to engage in antisocial behaviour, even when raised apart from the biological father Cognitive  Kenneth Dodge and colleagues proposed a model of conduct-disordered behaviour that focuses on the thought processes that occur in social interactions  Thought processes start when individuals pay attention to and interpret social and emotional cues in their environment  The next step is to consider alternative responses to the cues  A response is chosen and performed  Conduct-disordered youth demonstrate cognitive deficits and distortions  These youth often attend to fewer cues and misattribute hostile intent to ambiguous situations  Conduct-disordered youth demonstrate limited problem-solving skills, producing few solutions to problems, and these
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