Further research needs to be done on the relative treatment of young offenders and adults by the Canadian criminal justice system, both under the YOA and after the implementation of the YCJA. We will then be able to assess the success or failure of the legislation to reduce the court’s reliance on custody, and to bring the use of custody for youths below that seen in the adult system. Qualitative data on the experiences of youths and adults while incarcerated and while on probation would also facilitate a more complete comparison of the treatment of adults and youths by the justice system. The collection and presentation of quantitative court and corrections data could be improved to allow for easier comparisons between the youth and adults systems. For example, if Superior Courts were included in the Adult Criminal Court Survey, conviction and sentencing data for the most serious offences could be compared. Further, if ?time served’ data were available, we could make a definitive comparison of the relative proportions of custodial sentences served by adults and youths.

From the youth and adult criminal court and corrections data presented in this analysis, we know that youths are treated in a more punitive manner, based on the higher frequency of custodial dispositions in the youth court. Some would argue that just because youths are more likely to be sentenced to custody, and less likely to receive short sentences of 1 month or less, we can not infer that they are treated more punitively. But it is our position that incarceration is incarceration - it is the removal of one’s freedom whether that person is under or over 18 years of age, and it is the most punitive sanction available to the youth and adult courts. We can not compare the treatment of adults and young offenders while in custody, because qualitative data has not been collected for such a purpose. Even if these data were available, the fact that youths are more likely than adults to receive a custodial disposition would remain true. In Canada, we deny the freedom of young people by incarcerating them more than we do adults, despite Parliament having repeatedly declared, in juvenile legislation that youths should not be held as accountable for their actions as adults. Clearly, if young people are to be held to a lower standard of accountability, the youth court must look to alternatives to incarceration for young offenders.

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