Custody sentencing

A judge may order a custody sentence. This decision is based on the seriousness of the charges and any prior charges or sentencing. A youth will be sent to a custody centre for a period of time set by the court. There are open and secure custody centres.

Open custody facilities are smaller residences where youth live under supervision. They must stay in the facility at all times, unless they have an approved leave.

The control over your teen’s activity is much higher in secure custody. Secure custody facilities are separated from the rest of the community by security fencing and other security features. Youth do not have regular access to the community.

Supportive programs and activities are available within open and secure custody facilities for youth.

An individual plan is created to identify which programs and services will meet youth’s needs. Programs and services are to support rehabilitation and reduce the likelihood a youth will re-offend. They can include:

  • decision making and problem solving
  • victim awareness
  • education
  • dealing with drug and alcohol abuse
  • self control and anger counselling
  • learning basic life skills, such as how to express feelings and listen to others
  • playing sports and other recreation
  • taking part in social programs

Your teen’s probation officer is involved during custody to help plan a successful return to the community.


Continuing education while in custody prepares youth to return to the community successfully. Local school boards provide educational programs in custody facilities.

Depending on the size of the facility a youth is in, he or she may attend:

  • a full school with teachers, assistants and a principal, or
  • a single classroom with a teacher

All education programs follow the Ontario curriculum. If in a larger facility, your teen may have academic and skills-building courses. Smaller facilities generally focus on the basic courses.

Volunteers and staff also run programs that support education and skills training. These programs include:

  • tutoring
  • getting skilled trades certificates
  • career preparation

Learn about programs and courses that can help your teen stay in school:

Learn about programs and courses that will help your teen prepare for work and career:

Specialized programs

Ontario has one secure custody facility dedicated to Aboriginal youth in trouble with the law. Supports and services specific to Aboriginal young people are also provided in other facilities.

Some youth in trouble with the law have mental health concerns. To support them, Ontario provides specialized services. The Ontario Child and Youth Telepsychiatry Program uses professionals from:

  • Hospital for Sick Children
  • Child and Parent Resource Institute

to provide youth in custody with access to psychiatric services. Services are available in six secure custody facilities.

The Syl Apps Youth Centre is an accredited Children’s Mental Health Centre with clinical resources that may be available to youth in custody, including:

  • psychologists
  • psychiatrists
  • social workers
  • nurses
  • an art therapist

Re-entering the community

One of the goals of youth justice programs in custody is to help youth successfully return to the community and stay out of trouble.

After discharge from custody, your teen will be supervised in the community for a period of time by a probation officer. The probation officer may refer your teen to programs such as:

  • helping find a job or financial support for an apartment
  • dealing with anger or drug and alcohol abuse
  • learning basic life skills
  • tutoring

Support is also available through education programs that help youth transfer to a community school and earn credits.