Reintegration Supports

MCYS documents related to the provision of youth justice services provided to the Panel support their commitment to the provision of reintegration programs and supports for youth being released from custodial sentences into the community. This is mandated by the Youth Criminal Justice Act and is critical to any gains made while in custody being sustained when the young person is reintegrated into the community (MCYS, nd).

The Ministry is piloting two reintegration centres for this purpose. The Panel visited one of these residences. It opened in March 2015 and is described as a supportive reintegration residence that provides transitional housing and programs for up to 5 male youth between the ages of 16 to 20 referred by their probation officers on a voluntary basis. The program serves young men who are at risk of involvement with the justice system or are involved with the justice system and are experiencing homelessness or living in unsafe or unsustainable housing. Individualized plans are developed with each youth to meet their particular needs and residents must attend school, work, training or day treatment programs. They are connected to community resources in mental health, addictions and other areas as needed.

The Ministry also initiated assignment of probation officers for all youth in detention as part of the Youth Action Plan in 2012. The probation officer works with the facility staff and the youth, on a voluntary basis, to develop a release plan and identify community supports.

Some secure and open custody facilities employ reintegration workers whose responsibilities include helping young people to successfully reintegrate and be connected to their families/caregivers and communities. This, however, is not a consistent practice across facilities. The Panel observed and heard that reintegration supports were often absent or inadequate to meet the needs of youth through an effective community reintegration process.

The Panel consistently heard that there is a need for more reintegration support for young people leaving custodial settings. While some facilities had reintegration workers, others did not. Even when there was a reintegration worker position, we almost always heard that the resources were stretched and not adequate to provide the necessary transition supports to bridge custody and community. It was particularly noted that there is often a gap in family involvement and that additional resources are needed to engage families and provide them with the necessary skills and access to programs to support the return of the young person back home.