THE RISE IN USE OF CUSTODIAL SANCTIONS SINCE 1984


A common belief held by many Canadians is that the YOA gives young offenders an ‘easy ride’ through the criminal justice process. A considerable amount of evidence shows, however, that the contrary is the case: since the enactment of the YOA, the youth court has become more punitive - the sentencing options available to the youth court are now similar to those available to adults under the Criminal Code and the use of custodial dispositions has increased dramatically (Markwart, 1992). The evidence shows that we have left behind the treatment oriented approach of the JDA and have developed an approach to juvenile justice that is similar to that of the adult justice system, focussed more on punishment above all else.

An analysis of Youth Court Survey (YCS) data by Alan Markwart for the fiscal years 1984-85 through 1989-90 shows that seven provinces had substantial increases in the proportion of cases resulting in custody. Markwart’s analysis controlled for the effects of the change in the Uniform Maximum Age (UMA), implemented in 1985, by considering only those offenders under the previous maximum age for each province. Controlling for UMA was essential to the comparison of proportion of cases resulting in incarceration for various years, as it ruled out the change in the UMA as an explanation for the rise in custody for young offenders since the implementation of the YOA. Data from Ontario and Prince Edward Island are not presented because Ontario did not report to the Youth Court Survey at that time, and the data from P. E. I. would skew the analysis because the number of committals to custody were few (Markwart, 1992). British Columbia shows a large increase (109%) in the proportion of youths who are sent to custody (see Table 6, below).


Table 6. Percentage of cases with findings of guilt committed to custody and percent change in use of custody in eight provinces for the fiscal years 1984/85 and 1989/90, controlling for UMA.

Province

1984/85

1989-90

% change

British Columbia

11.2

23.4

+109

Alberta

10.3

18.9

+83

Manitoba

13.9

25.2

+81

Nova Scotia

12.7

22.7

+79

Newfoundland

14.4

24.1

+67

New Brunswick

20.8

31.3

+50

Québec

28.9

32.1

+11

Saskatchewan

25.2

25.7

+2

Source: Youth Court Survey, 1984/85 and 1989/90, CCJS, adapted by Markwart, 1992.


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