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Ontario's Youth Justice System

Archived Backgrounder

Ontario's Youth Justice System

Since the proclamation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act in 2003, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services has been transforming its youth justice system to one that is youth focused and separate from the adult system.

Ontario's youth justice system includes secure and open custody and detention facilities, as well as a range of intensive community-based programs. All of these services are designed to hold young people accountable for their actions, while providing meaningful supports to help steer them away from crime, complete their education and make better choices. Youth who were 12 to 17 at the time of the offence may be sentenced to either community-based programs or to custody.

In open custody, youth can move freely in the facility, but must have authorization or be accompanied by a staff member to leave. Secure custody facilities are locked settings surrounded by a security fence; staffing levels are higher and movement within the building is restricted.

Alternatives To Custody
Community-based programs help youth develop skills, make better choices and complete their education. These may include:

  • community service
  • probation
  • attendance centres
  • repairing the harm done through restorative justice
  • specialized mental health care and supervision

Research shows that appropriate interventions, delivered in the community, rather than in custody, are more effective at reducing the chances of youth re-offending. Alternatives to custody also create more opportunities for rehabilitation and reintegration into the community.

Bluewater Youth Centre
Bluewater Youth Centre is a secure custody facility for males in Goderich. It is currently operating at only 26 per cent capacity. Bluewater has 64 beds and this closure will affect its 198 staff.

Bluewater was built in 1961 by the province as a mental health facility known as the Ontario Hospital, Goderich. In 1976, it became the Bluewater Centre for the Developmentally Handicapped and in 1985 it opened as a youth-only secure custody and detention centre.

Brookside Youth Centre
The Brookside Youth Centre is a secure custody facility for males in Cobourg. It is currently operating at a capacity of 46 per cent. Brookside will go from a 61- to a 32-bed facility as a result of the ministry's transformation of its youth justice system. This will affect about 55 staff.

Brookside was established as a training school for girls in the 1930's and became a training school for boys in 1948. Since 1985 the facility has been a youth-only secure custody and detention centre.

Cecil Facer Youth Centre
The Cecil Facer Youth Centre is a secure custody facility for males in Sudbury. It is currently operating at a capacity of 42 per cent. Cecil Facer will go from a 48- to a 32-bed facility a result of the ministry's transformation of its youth justice system. This will affect about 49 staff.

The facility was named after the first judge of juvenile court in Sudbury. Cecil Facer was respected for refusing to allow police to hold youth in the Sudbury jail after their arrest. The Cecil Facer Youth Centre opened in 1971 as a training school for boys and became a youth-only secure custody facility in 1985.

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