Getting Tough On Kids

Young offenders and the "law and order agenda"
November 1, 1999

The Canadian public gets most of its information about young offenders from the media.  This source seriously misrepresents both the quantity and quality of youth crime.  Ye it is this misinformed public opinion which tends to drive public policy in the area of criminal justice.

An examination of the statistics and the literature shows that evidence does not support the generally-held view that youth crime is rampant.  Yet the demonization of our children by politicians and the media continues.

This paper examines briefly the situation of Aboriginal youth, youth gangs, and girls – all of which have been singled out as especially bad or dangerous.  It concludes that public concerns about these groups, although not to be dismissed, have been seriously exaggerated because of extensive misinformation about young offenders.

Alternatives to the Canadian style of justice system have been successful elsewhere in the world.  So have some of the more recent efforts locally.  This paper describes some of these as well as a few of the programs which have been failures.  It briefly summarizes risk factors associated with youth crime, and makes recommendations for future action to deal with young offenders in a system which emphasizes healing, restoration of harmony, rehabilitation and the participation of the community.


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