System Capacity

Despite previous efforts by the Ministry to match the capacity for custodial beds to demand, as the numbers of young people receiving open and secure custody dispositions has declined dramatically since the Youth Criminal Justice Act was proclaimed, there remains very low occupancy in many secure custody/detention and open custody/detention facilities, with regional variations noted previously in this chapter. Until such time as the DO and TP operated secure custody/detention systems are integrated, it will be difficult to optimize the use of excess capacity therein but this should be undertaken to best meet the needs of young people and to maximize efficient use of resources.

Optimizing the use of open custody beds in particular to meet the needs of young people has proven challenging. The principles of providing care in proximity to home; maintaining gender-dedicated residential care; proximity to courts given the number of detention youth and concerns about the propriety of housing young people who are not serving open custody dispositions in open custody residences, are difficult to reconcile.

The need to re-imagine how open custody residences can support the range of needs of youth justice-engaged youth is evident. Reintegration support for young people being discharged from open and secure custody in the form of structured and stable supportive housing with programming and community reintegration support (particularly for youth transitioning out of secure custody) could assist in their successful transition. In addition, supportive housing for youth on probation, and youth requiring a residence to be candidates for bail consideration, could be considered. Low occupancy open custody residences could be converted to general youth residences for the full spectrum of youth in conflict, or at risk of being in conflict, with the law. This would require a review of Ministry policy and an openness to removing barriers to such a practice.

There may also be opportunities to convert low occupancy open custody residences to child welfare group homes or children and youth mental health beds if there is a demonstrated shortage of such beds. As the Ministry has not undertaken a bed mapping exercise across sectors, this is not known.

In some cases, the best course of action may be to close open custody residences and reinvest the resources elsewhere in residential services for young people. While there are options for the conversion of low occupancy open custody residences, this should not be undertaken if there is not a clear, demonstrable demand. Wherever possible, youth in conflict with the law should be supported in the community.