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Chapter 15

SOC102 Questioning Sociology Chapter 15

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Lorne Tepperman

Questioning Sociology Chapter 15 – Is there justice for young people? Introduction - Differing conceptions of justice in a section that underscores the (dis)connection between rights and justice - Three instances of injustice experienced by young persons o Child poverty o Racism confronting Aboriginal youth o Dislocation of girls under law - Silencing of young people in Western society What is justice? - Problem in answering this question is due to the fundamental ambiguity of the word justice itself o It can refer to the bureaucratic structure of administering the legal process (e.g., Department of Justice) o It can be used in law and legislation to imply the impartiality of the system (e.g., YCJA) o It can suggest a connection with law-and-order campaigns in which victims declare that they are owed retribution for pain suffered o It can mean an ethic of punishment that delivers obvious signs of unpleasantness to offenders o It can reflect the public’s desire to amend law, often in relation to existing but flawed legislation that seemingly promotes injustice - Youth were governed under the Young Offenders Act (YOA) before the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) became law o Hailed as inequitable for not sufficiently taking into account the victims of juvenile deviance o Blamed for victimization, and that tougher legislation would prevent the harm done to the injured - Justice is intimately connected with inalienable and omnipresent rights enshrined under legislation o Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982)  guarantees Canadian citizens and permanent residents the following rights and freedoms  Freedom of conscience and religion  Freedom of thought, belief, and expression  Freedom of association  The right to vote  The right to life, liberty, and security of person - Movement toward assigning rights to children went through three fundamental stages o Laissez-fair philosophy (e.g., children were considered parental property) o Humanitarian and sentimental rationale (e.g., children as a separate class of partially informed individuals) o Current discourse (e.g., children as people entitled to individual rights) - Turning point in rights allocation for youth o United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child  an expression of a moral stand, and of a legal agreement and international obligation  Unanimously adopted (November 20, 1989) o In 1991, Canada ratified the convention, which comprises 41 articles divided into two broad categories  Civil and political rights, which include the right to self-determination and protection from arbitrary arrest  Economic, social, and cultural rights, which include the right to health care and education and freedom of religion o HAMMARBERG  Human rights and protections set out by the convention can be divided into three broad groups  Three Ps  provision, protection, and participation  Provision  youth must be afforded basic welfare (e.g., the right to survival and development, education, to be cared for by parents)  Protection  children must be sheltered from abuse, economic exploitation, discrimination, neglect  Participation  freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right of expression - Despite Canada’s agreement to abide by the convention, substantial gaps remain between the state’s promise and reality o General lack of awareness among youth about the convention and the their rights  PETERSON-BADALI and ABRAMOVICH  study of high school students in 1992  Very few youth could identify the most basic legal principles (e.g., the youth court’s age jurisdiction)  Many young people were certain that their lawyer was obliged to inform their parents and the judge what they revealed in confidence - Equating rights with justice is spurious o Rights conventions are of little utility when their intricacies are not widely known, understood, or distributed o Rights discourses provide very little direction to those addressing inequality and subjugation in an unjust society o Rights and social goods are not equally distributed throughout the Canadian population  Socio-economic status and class play a significant role (e.g., people on the margins are grossly overrepresented in poverty and incarceration rates)  Not as a result of some innate propensity toward crime and unemployment  Result of being trapped at the intersection of three transformations distinct to the neo-liberal organization of society that have targeted the visibly different and socially marginal o Economic globalization, the dismantling of the social welfare net, and the intensification of penal strategies contributed to the greater inequality and unequal distribution of societal resources  JEFFREY REIMAN  the rich were getting richer, while the poor were receiving prison - If the goal of justice is to ensure equal distribution of resources and goods to societal members, it would appear that Canada is moving in a most peculiar direction Justice and the poor - Child poverty continues to rise as the gap between the rich and the poor widens - Apart from Germany, Canada leads the way among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in measures of income inequality o Alberta  Welfare benefits for a single individual deemed employable were slashed by 42.5%  Welfare benefits for single parents with a child were slashed by 23.6%  Compared to $43 million/year to subsidize the local horseracing industry - As poverty rates have continued to climb, the net traditionally put in place to soften the impact has been stripped away, including the benefits available to ameliorate the conditions of Canada’s children o National Child Benefit  provides families with annual incomes of less than $22,615 with $126/month for the first child and decreasing amounts for subsequent children  Only working families are allowed to keep the money  Individuals on social assistance and disability pensions are denied support payments o Youth are hit the hardest by these changes  10% of children under 6 years old live in low-income families  43% of food bank clients are children and youth under 18 years old  Over 1 million children in Canada live in poverty  These figures establish that more children are poor than in 1989, when Parliament unanimously pledged to eradicate child poverty by 2000 o Poverty is not an equal opportunity oppressor  Children of marginalized populations (e.g., recent immigrants, Aboriginal peoples) and children in lone female-parented households are at the greatest risk to experience poverty  Young people are overrepresented among Canadian food bank users  Canada ranks poorly on infant mortality rates among OECD nations - To manage the excesses of, and fallout from, the current economic climate, state officials have resorted to pruning child welfare budgets and cutting jobs o Funding cuts of this magnitude have serious and severe implications  Child welfare workers have become overextended  Child welfare managers feel pressure to reduce spending  Youth are denied essential helping services (e.g., treatment sessions, educational programs, school meal programs, early academic intervention, school-based support workers from inner city schools) o Children are being placed in foster homes that meet only minimal standards  BOB RECHNER  child advocate for Alberta  Stated that when funding for foster homes and resources are tight, standards may not be followed  Some are retained as foster homes that probably shouldn’t be, but there aren’t alternatives  Manitoba’s Child and Family Services  Confronted by a lack of adequate foster homes and insufficient funding  Offered a solution to this problem  Child welfare officials rented a floor in a hotel to house youth awaiting placement o The most vulnerable children in Canadian society are short-changed and denied essential services as a result of shrunken social welfare spending, so many of these youth become inmates of Canadian penitentiaries - While Canadians favoured tax breaks for corporations and the richest segments of society, they also campaigned for increased rates of incarceration for young people o Incarceration is the most costly (both economically and socially) mode of penalty o Many young people are incarcerated for relatively minor forms of deviance o Individuals in Canada’s centres of detention are almost exclusively the most marginal class o Throughout the 1990s,  Many people were sentenced to prison for heinous breaches of public order as failure to comply with out court orders and property-related crimes  Tendency to lock up juvenile offenders was at its peak  Erosion of welfare was at its peak o Instead of distributing welfare benefits to the poor and destitute, Canadians have placed this class under the authority of the criminal justice system  While social welfare schemes were shrinking, programs that targeted poor people were expanding  $50,000 to $100,000 is required to detain one young person for a year o An indication that a new control regime was emerging for marginal and destitute youth, characterized by eroding social programs and a greater emphasis on punitive justice practices o Centres of detention had become the social service to which the poor and oppressed had the readiest access  Rising cost of post-secondary education  Toughening criteria for welfare eligibility  Criminal justice system is the state service most available to the subjugated and marginalized - Canada manages youth poverty and inequality through an integrated control complex o Deter and punish crime o Regulate the lower segments of the social order o Defend against the discardable, derelict, and superfluous Justice and indigenous youth - Aboriginal peoples have been subjected to intrusive and invasive modes of state-level control aimed at reform, assimilation, and subjugation o Native land vacated to make way for white settlement and capitalist expansion o Tools of colonialism  North-West Mounted Police (forerunner of the RCMP), law, reserves, children’s forced adoption by white families, and residential schooling - Institutions of detention are the front lines when it comes to controlling the indigenous other o Gross overrepresentation of Native adolescents at the most punitive end of the system o Indigenous adolesc
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