Youth criminals need consequences
Editor: Re: “Youth and Crime” (Editorial, The Times, Jan. 6).
Each story of youth crime is different, however the common denominator for youths involved in crime is the knowledge that nothing of any consequence shall happen to them. The Youth Criminal Justice Act must be rewritten so that youths convicted of serious crimes shall automatically face adult sentencing.
The onus should be on the youths to prove they should not be sentenced as adults, and the onus should also be on the Crown to prove that the youth should be sentenced as an adult for serious crimes.
Other crimes of shoplifting, vandalism, drug offences and car theft must also be met with appropriate sentencing to a youth custody centre. Again, the onus should be on the youths to prove they should not be sentenced to such a centre and the onus should be on the Crown to prove that the youths should be sentenced to such a centre.
Many times it is discovered that the youth who offends has a very inadequate family background. The home environment may be noisy and squalid, enabling the youth to escape to the freedom of the streets as the parents strive to obtain peace in their home. Therefore learning, schoolwork and sports are neglected as the youth’s involvement in crime increases.
Currently, judges seem to have their hands tied. They have been challenged with the responsibility of providing youths of criminal intent with alternatives to sentencing, such as bail and probation. “Do Not Lock Them Up” seems to be the order of the day.
“The judge is condemned when the guilty is acquitted.” (author unknown).
It should be recognized that we as a society are failing our responsibility to these youths involved in criminal activities. No, I am not advocating “spare the rod, spoil the child,” but to save these youths, we have to have them placed in an area and given time and proper attention so they will feel that they are important and needed by their society.
The changing of the Youth Criminal Justice Act is a step towards ensuring that youths convicted of a serious crime will pay a significant penalty for their crimes. In order to rehabilitate these youths, we must first give our judicial system the authority to appropriately sentence a youth for the crime committed.
If while serving their sentence in a Youth Custody Centre, the youth becomes an adult (turns 19), that inmate should be transferred to an adult correctional facility. During the time of the youth custody sentencing, the youth should be assessed, and at age 19 sent to the appropriate adult facility.
Youth Custody Centres have programs and counselling that can reduce the youth’s criminal behaviour. These programs are created on a relationship that is open, trusting and empathic and based on the concept of reinforcement of a positive behaviour with attention, praise and approval.
These programs emphasize that talking cures, while giving the youth the stability to be able to express their own opinion. This is while residing in a secure, nurturing environment with adequate food, clothing, shelter and medical and dental treatment.
I believe in forgiveness. I have read many stories where an individual has forgiven a youth who was responsible for hurting or killing someone that they loved dearly. I believe just as strongly that this forgiveness can be better fostered while the youth serves an appropriate sentence for the crime committed.
The victim(s) of a heinous crime committed by a youth should be given the opportunity to attend an intervention session involving them and the youth, and the youth should welcome this as part of the process towards healing.
I know that the percentage of youth involved in violent or any type of crime is small, compared to the percentage of youth who make us all proud that they are part of our society. I see youth of our community on a daily basis, and I think we should be pretty proud of these kids. They play sports, they go to school and they are growing into the citizens that our community wants and needs.
Think of it this way. Many youths involved in violent crimes are 16, 17 or 18 years old. Our Canadian Junior Hockey team just won gold for the fourth year in a row. They are the same ages.