Youth within the Canadian justice system lose their identities. Their age places them under the jurisdiction of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The criminal charges identify them as criminals and their “’character traits’ … label [them] for society” (1957:45). Such procedures as pre-sentencing reports, encapsulate their history and reduce the youth to “object[s] of a more or less easy absorption” (1957:45). It is this pre-sentencing report compiled by a probation worker that gives direction to the judge in determining a sentence. A probation officer will interview the youth, their families and friends and will create a picture of the character of the accused and how they plan to reform. This is used to help the judge determine sentencing but it is also used as a means to identify the character of the youth and his subsequent labelling and treatment in the future. This documentation will follow them throughout their youth within any governmental agency. Youth are misled by those within the system, not for their own good, but for what those within the system believe is in their best interest. This includes such things as plea bargains, chemical restraints and permanent labels; all of which rob them of their voices and their identities.
A risk-needs assessment is also developed by the probation officer that follows the youth to their custodial facility, group homes and community intervention programs. The risk-needs assessment was developed in the 1980s and is founded on an ideology that has three beliefs. The first is that criminal behaviour can be accurately predicted and the higher the risk means the more treatment that should be provided. The second is that this behaviour has triggers that cause it and these should be the focus of treatment. Finally, the treatment must be based on the responsivity principle. Bonta and Andrews of Public Safety Canada (2007:9) explain the responsivity principle as being meant to
Maximize the offender's ability to learn from a rehabilitative intervention by providing cognitive behavioural treatment and tailoring the intervention to the learning style, motivation, abilities and strengths of the offender.
This ‘strength-based’ approach to treatment continues in custodial settings now and is utilized in person-centred plans of care. These include such interventions as teaching an offender to “Replace procriminal friends and associates with prosocial friends and associates” (Bonta and Andrews 2007:14). The oversimplification of strategies such as this often creates an animosity between the offender and the treatment provider. Statistics will show when they are gathered by the treatment providers, that this treatment works well within the artificial environment of the custodial setting. A reduction in negative behaviour while in the custodial facility shows the effectiveness of the ‘evidence based treatment modality’ which will ensure further funding for its existence. Unfortunately, this is often a much different...