Chapter 12: Assessment and Treatment of Young Offenders
-Legislation has changed over the years in an attempt to accommodate
the needs of adolescents (younger than 18; older than 12).
-It is critical to consider the development paths to youthful offending in
order to prevent/rehabilitate.
-Criminal acts done by those younger than 12 years old are processed
through family/social service agencies.
-The Juvenile Delinquents Act (JDA) was passed in 1908 so that young
offenders could receive proper treatment. (Applies from 7-16 years old).
-They were now referred to as delinquents instead of offenders and they
committed “acts of delinquency” as opposed to “criminal offences”.
-Unless very serious, delinquents had their own court which was more
informal in order to focus on youth guidance.
Key JDA Changes to Canadian Criminal Justice
1) Separate court system established
2) Minimum age set for when a child could be charge criminally (7)
3) Judges had sentencing discretion as well as more sentencing
4) Parents encouraged to be part of judicial process.
-Youth could be denied rights and services since the trial was informal
and this was a flaw in this new act.
-1984: JDA was replaced with the Young Offenders Act (YOA).
-Youth were now separate from adults and this was recognized due to
different levels of cognitive development; however, they were also held
more responsible for their actions.
-Level of accountability and consequence of behavior were big
determining factors. -12-18 was the new age range for being charged criminally as well as
youth courts still remaining intact along with possible adult trial based
on crime severity (required to be 14 years old).
-If young offender pleaded guilty, there was a chance of a community
-Other dispositions available: absolute discharge (no sentence possible
besides guilty), fine, compensation, victim restitution, probation, and
-2 types of custody: open (group home) or closed (incarceration).
A number of amendments have been made to the YOA:
1) Bill C-106 section 16 (1986): Youth court is required to consider
whether the Crown or defense would like to transfer case to adult
1.1) This amendment was introduced to address the problem of
defendants pleading guilty to avoid transfer.
2) Bill C-37 changed section 16 once again in 1995 meaning that 16
and 17 year olds charged with murder, manslaughter, or sexual
assault would go to adult court.
2.1) These cases could stay in youth court if they felt the objectives of
reconciliation and public protection could be reconciled.
2.2) Sentences for youth also changed under this bill.
2.3) First-degree murder had a 10-year max with 6 served in
2.4) Second-degree murder had a 7-year max with 4 served in
-A major criticism was light sentencing for serious violent offences.
Some also criticized the new minimum age of 12 and the arbitrariness
with how cases were handled.
-April 1 , 2003: YOA replaced by the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA)
3 Main Objectives of This New Act: 1) Prevent youth crime
2) Provide meaningful consequences to encourage behavior
3) Improve rehab and reintegration of youth into the community.
-It focuses more on extrajudicial measures that work to keep children
out of court and custody.
-Youth identity is protected until 17 unless it’s a murder and the suspect
is considered dangerous.
-YCJA’s privacy clause was put to the test when 14-year-old Stefanie
Rengel of Toronto was killed. Within a few hours, the names of the
victim and the two criminals were all over Facebook.
-Sentencing options have once again increased under the YCJA. Judges
can now reprimand (warn youth), intensive support/supervision order,
attendance order (youth must attend specific program), deferred
custody and supervision order (youth can serve sentence in community
if certain conditions are met), and an intensive rehabilitative custody
and supervision order (youth in custody receive intensive services and
-The Crown can now also notify the youth court that it will be seeking
adult sentencing and young offenders can receive it if necessary. There is
no more transferring anymore. Must be 14 years old.
-Crimes committed by youth (including violent offences) have been
decreasing for the last few years with probation being the most frequent
-Between 2008-2009, there was consistently 18,000 youth on probation
no matter what time of the year it was.
-From when the YCJA was introduced in 2003, 42% of custodies went
down due to the probation increase. -Clinicians will seek parental permission before conducting an
assessment on a child or adolescent. This isn’t a strict law but is done
most of the time out of courtesy.
-2 types of problems: Internalizing problems are emotional difficulties
(stress, depression, etc.) while externalizing problems included fighting,
bullying, etc. Externalizing considered harder to treat.
-Symptoms peek in teen years but are otherwise pretty stable.
-10 males to every 1 female have externalizing disorders. Important that
behavior is viewed through a developmental context.
3 Psychiatric Diagnoses occur with some frequency in young offenders:
1) ADHD- persistent inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity.
2) Oppositional Defiant Disorder: negative, hostile, defiant.
3) Conduct Disorder: Violating rights of others or age appropriate
-40% of children with ODD develop CD. 50% of children meeting CD
criteria have antisocial personality disorder when older.
Assessing the Adolescent
-If an adolescent’s antisocial behavior receives court attention, consent
to assess may not matter as the suspect needs to be evaluated in order
to predict if they will re-offend.
-Assessing a young offender’s risk can require a checklist where items
are scored on a scale, points ar