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Two Distinct Service Delivery Systems

Historically, the provision of youth justice services in Ontario was split between two provincial government ministries: the Ministry of Correctional Services for youth aged 16 and 17 at the time of their offence and the Ministry of Community and Social Services for youth aged 12 to 15 at the time of their offence (MCYS, nd). Secure custody and detention for the older youth were provided through directly operated correctional facilities while these services for the younger youth were contracted out to transfer payment agencies (MCYS, nd).

With the proclamation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act in 2003 and the creation of a new Ministry of Children and Youth Services, a decision was made to integrate the two service delivery systems and transfer responsibility to the new ministry. At the current time, there are six directly operated secure custody/detention facilities and 14 secure transfer payment operated facilities in Ontario (MCYS, nd). 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 (MCYS, nd).

During our consultations, the Panel consistently heard feedback from managers working in secure custody/detention that the directly operated (DO) and transfer payment (TP) operated systems are very siloed. There is some movement of young people across these systems and professional development opportunities provided by the Ministry are accessed by transfer payment staff. Nevertheless, opportunities are ad hoc rather than systemic and the management of the systems is not integrated.

There is no mechanism to bring the full resources of the two systems together to ensure that meeting the needs of young people is optimized. The Panel was advised that there are not consistent standards for the hiring, training and compensation of staff working in the two systems. There is no mechanism to ensure consistency of practice across the two systems. We were advised that there is no systemic mechanism for sharing best practices or having strategic conversations about challenges in the system. It was reported that, while there used to be occasional meetings of the TP and DO sectors, this was discontinued.

The Panel asked whether there would be any barriers to fully utilizing all secure custody/detention facilities on a systemic basis to ensure the best placement of a young person in accordance with his or her needs. We were advised that there is a perception, which is not borne out in reality, that the DO facilities take the highest risk youth while the TP facilities take easier-to-manage, lower risk youth. The position was advanced that, in reality, both are equipped and capable of supporting the full range of youth and have had experience in doing so. A review of offender profiles across facilities, provided by the Ministry, provides support for this position.