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Implications for Recommendations

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.

Two Distinct Service Delivery Systems

With few exceptions, the Ministry continues to operate the two legacy systems in secure custody and detention as two quite distinct service delivery systems: directly operated and transfer payment operated services, without seeming to maximize quality of care, best practices and efficiencies across the system.

An integration of the two systems into one harmonized system could bring the full resources of both systems together to enhance opportunities to meet the needs of young people in secure detention and custody. Best practices identified in both DO and TP could be scaled up across the system and consistency of standards and practice could be achieved. Opportunities to optimize the implementation and practice of relationship custody could be realized. A common pre-service training curriculum could be developed and delivery could be harmonized in collaboration with both systems.

Relationship Custody

The degree to which relationship custody has been effectively implemented is uneven across secure custody/ detention facilities. A number of barriers have been identified to realizing the full potential of a youth-centred culture that is underpinned by respectful, caring and flexible relationships between staff and young people.

These barriers need to be addressed and best practices in relationship custody should be shared across all operators in an integrated system of secure custody/detention.

RMYC

The Ministry and the RMYC senior management team have clearly made many efforts to mitigate the challenges inherent in the RMYC environment. Such measures have included reducing the count, adding more staff, providing additional staff training, introducing more programming, and reviewing and amending policies and practices to address various issues raised.

While they are to be commended for these efforts, and progress has been made, challenges remain. It is difficult to fully mitigate the impact of the size of the facility and the concentration of youth with gang-affiliations in one centre. In turn, these conditions create a heightened focus on safety, security and control to the detriment of the full realization of the potential of relationship custody.

Secure Isolation

The use of secure isolation varies significantly across secure custody/detention facilities in terms of both frequency and duration as well as conditions while in secure isolation. This is of significant concern to the Panel and we are reassured that the Ministry shares these concerns and is working to address the issues raised by the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. It is clear that sustained efforts will be required by the Ministry to address inconsistencies in practice in youth justice services, mitigate the impacts on youth of secure isolation, develop alternatives to the use of secure isolation, share best practices and ensure that practices are consistent with the Ministry’s policy directives and legislation.

Reintegration Supports

The importance of reintegration supports, including housing where applicable, are recognized by the Ministry for the success of young people in conflict with the law. While there are some resources in place in this respect, they are not consistently available and generally described as insufficient during our consultations. There is a need to ensure that strong reintegration supports are in place for young people transitioning from custodial settings, particularly from secure custody. This will optimize and sustain gains made from participation in evidence-based and evidence-informed programs while in custody and will support the young person in reintegrating into his/her community. Reintegration and after care programs are also essential to reduce recidivism.