TORONTO Ontarios Ministry of Children and Youth Services is jeopardizing young offenders chances of rehabilitation and increasing the odds that they will re-offend by closing open detention and open custody facilities, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
Judges are now faced with either letting young offenders go free or putting them in maximum security prisons because of the direction the Ontario government is taking, says Cindy Lee, the secretary-treasurer of CUPE Local 4369, which represents workers in open detention and open custody facilities. Young offenders are being released into youth shelters without any parents or guardians having to vouch for them. They are on their own with few resources. It is unfair to the kids. It is unfair to the community.
The Ministry has made it clear that they will be closing the few facilities we have left that specialize in rehabilitating young offenders. Many more young criminals will be on the street with no supervision while others will be getting their only counselling from hard-core convicts, says Lee.
The government shut down two open custody facilities in Toronto recently: Art Eggleton House and King Clancy House. They provided custody for convicted young offenders of 16 and 17 years of age. Under the open custody programme, the young men were able to attend counselling sessions with their families and, with permission, go to work or school. Before it was closed last week, King Clancy House was briefly converted to an open detention facility, which houses young men who have been charged and are waiting to go to court. Residents were relocated to Terry Fox House and Gifford Homes.
Our new Youth Criminal Justice Act calls for a greater emphasis on counselling and reintegration and rehabilitation, says Rob Britton, Local 4369 vice-president. In fact, Ontario is getting rid of the only means to carry out those parts of the legislation. Most of the young people we deal with are first offenders but many have been charged with very serious crimes including aggravated assault, sexual assault and armed robbery. Even though these young men are in custody, we are able to work with them and their families to help many of them find their place in society. Now we will see them go directly from secure detention straight to the street with no help at all.
CUPE Local 4369 represents workers at Terry Fox House and Blue Jays Lodge in Toronto and Gord Saunders House in Sault Ste. Marie.
For more information, please contact:
Cindy Lee: 647-299-1743; Rob Britton: 416-761-9048;
Shannon McManus, CUPE Communications: 416-292-3999 or 416-455-8247.