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 youth custody centre for a period of time set by the court. There are open and secure custody centres.

Open custody facilities are smaller residences, generally located in the community, where youth live under supervision. They must remain with staff at all times, unless they have an approved leave from the facility.

The control over your teen’s activity is much higher in secure custody. Secure custody facilities are separated from the community by security fencing and other security features.

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

Staff work with your teen to create an individual plan that identifies appropriate programs and services. Programs and services keep youth active, teach new skills, support rehabilitation and reduce the likelihood a youth will re-offend. They can include:

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 deliver educational programs in custody facilities.

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

All education programs follow the Ontario curriculum.

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

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 and one open custody facility operated by an Indigenous organization for First Nations, Inuit or Métis youth in conflict with the law. Supports and services specific to First Nations, Inuit or Métis young people are also provided in other facilities.

Some youth in conflict with the law may also have mental health needs. To support their needs, Ontario provides specialized services. The Youth Justice Telepsychiatry Program uses professionals from the Hospital for Sick Children to provide youth in custody with access to psychiatric services. These services are available in eight 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:

Re-entering the community

One of the goals of youth justice custody programs is to help youth successfully return to the community and avoid further conflict with the law.

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

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

My teen is in custody

Knowing what rights youth have can help both you and your teen understand his or her experience in custody. Youth also have responsibilities while in custody. These will be explained by staff at the facility.

Youth in custody must be told by staff about their right to a lawyer. They must also be informed how to file concerns or complaints in the facility or with the Ontario Ombudsman.

Youth have other rights in a custody centre, including the right to:

Youth also have rights to privacy, including:

Legislative references to these rights and more details can be found:

Visiting your teen

Each centre has rules about visiting, but generally you will have to:

Visits are in a room supervised for safety and security. Conversations cannot be overheard.

Read about community-based sentencing