A selection of initiatives that attempt to avoid the use of custody, with or without some reparative elements
This section presents a wider selection of initiatives that, for the most part, are focused primarily on providing sentencing dispositions that are in the better interests of the offender or the victim than a sentence to imprisonment. They tend to be offender-centered, facilitating more effective access to the health and social services that are needed. Some emphasize attention to family and social environment. But few include attention to victim-offender communication or reparative and restorative concerns. And few can be considered to be truly involving the community at the grass-roots level; they tend to be in the hands of agencies that are surrogates for the community (although some draw on significant pools of volunteer citizens).
Many of these agencies and services are also severely overburdened and understaffed; this can greatly reduce their ability to provide the quality attention needed for a disposition to be meaningful and have credibility as an alternative to a prison term in the mind of the public. A more "restorative justice" approach, however, is beginning to emerge in some highly innovative initiatives; this development could greatly enhance the ability of these measures to provide more satisfying justice to the public.
While these initiatives are helping to avoid custody for some individuals, they have not reduced the use of incarceration overall. They are also "widening the net" in two ways. They can be applied to exercise greater coercion and control on individuals who would not otherwise be charged or sentenced so severely. Some have also become popular "add-ons" to prison sentences, rather than a replacement for them; they "make sense" as a disposition, much more so than jail, but justice officials are unable to let go of the seductive appeal of imprisonment as a symbolic token of "tough action" on crime. The use of these measures has therefore had the unfortunate effect of increasing the bureaucracy and cost around crime, more than it has succeeded in reducing reliance on incarceration as intended.
This need not be so. We have highlighted in this section the cases we found that best illustrate the effective use of these dispositions as genuine alternatives to custody in cases of a more serious nature. The question must be repeatedly asked: why not more often? And each time incarceration is tagged on and used anyway, it should be scrutinized more closely: for what purpose is this necessary? On whom is it having the desired effect? Is it truly worth the extra cost, or could this not be done some other way?
There are other reasons, of course, why some of these alternatives remain under-utilized. Ironically, while some in the public believe justice is "too soft", some offenders find the alternatives to custody tougher than jail because they are not yet ready to make the changes in their lives demanded of them in some of these interventions; for example, they would rather do their time in jail and go back to their drinking habits.
Overall, the selection of initiatives featured in this section represent some excellent and necessary interventions whose impact on justice would be strengthened if they reinforced more restorative components and were used more boldly to replace imprisonment. They differ from the initiatives to be found in section four in that they tend to be more clearly driven by attention to the specifics of each situation and an attempt to replace incarceration with a measure better suited to meeting the intended justice objectives - as opposed to being driven more significantly by the institutional need to relieve the pressure of overpopulated prisons.
Diversion allows people to take responsibility and accept consequences for their wrongful behaviour while at the same time removing them totally or partially from the aspects of the criminal justice system which can have long-term stigmatizing and marginalizing effects. In Canada, there are a host of pre-charge and post-charge diversion schemes available for youth, as well as an increasing number for adults. Police and/or Crown decide whether to divert a case.
The offender admits responsibility for the alleged offence, then meets with a diversion worker to plan an appropriate response to the offence such as verbal or written apologies, restitution or community service work.
As a result of diversion, an individual does not get a criminal record, increasing the chances that they will not offend again. Diversion saves the courts time and a great deal of money. It frees up scarce justice resources for the trial of serious offences.
Diversion programs are criticized, however, when they lead to more cumbersome procedures and also increase the number of persons subject to sanctions and even increase the intensity of social control. Sometimes, the measures proposed by diversion programs are either perceived as "soft" or irrelevant, although some offenders find the process much more demanding of them than the impersonal courts. They will likely be more effective in providing "satisfying justice" the more they are tailored to be meaningful to the offender, the victim and the circumstances surrounding the crime.
Nova Scotia Adult Diversion Project Dartmouth and North Sydney
The offender is a 38-year-old divorced mother of two children who was in receipt of social assistance. She was accused in a $14,000 social assistance fraud case. It was agreed between the victim and the offender that restitution would be an acceptable resolution. As is the procedure with our program, the charge was laid (sworn) by police but not placed on the court docket. The police made the referral directly to our staff, contact was established with the victim to determine their wishes/concerns and the offender was interviewed to determine her interest in participating in the diversion option. Follow-ing an assessment interview with the diversion (probation) officer regarding the offence and the proposed resolution of it, a written agreement was signed by the client outlining her obligation to make monthly payments of $100.00 each directly to the social assistance office.
The offender had a part-time job but is highly motivated to acquire a better job and hopes to repay the restitution more quickly. If she fails to abide by the condition of the diversion agreement, the matter will be referred back to the police for processing through Court.
Thus far this has worked very well for both the victim and offender. A Justice Department probation officer commented that this type of diversion "will aid in the support of restorative justice approaches becoming real options in the Criminal Justice System".
The adult diversion project piloted in Dartmouth and North Sydney in Nova Scotia has several key objectives:
- to provide options for improving efficiency and effectiveness in the handling of cases;
- to offer an option to the criminal justice system that is visible, accountable and accessible to offenders, victims and the community;
- to provide victims with the opportunity to actively participate in a process directed toward achieving a successful resolution to the incident;
- to develop initiatives which promote responsible, pro-social behaviour on the part of alleged adult offenders and which are consistent with the protection of society;
- to lessen the possibility of the offender repeating their criminal behaviour.
Courts are backlogged with many relatively minor cases, causing costly delays in proceeding with more serious and violent cases. Based on an analysis of 1993 cases, the Nova Scotia Justice Department estimated that as many as 600 cases in Dartmouth Court could be diverted through this project. In a preliminary evaluation of the project's first seven months, 180 cases were in fact diverted. The discrepancy between projected and actual referrals was explained partly by the continued declining of reported crime rates and changes in police charging policies for several minor offences.
Cases are referred by police to the probation officers operating the diversion project. The referral is directly from police, with Crown Attorney consultation only in those cases where the police consider it advisable or where diversion personnel feel it is required.
But criminal law is not the only means of bolstering values. Nor is it necessarily always the best means. The fact is, criminal law is a blunt and costly instrument - blunt because it cannot have the human sensitivity of institutions like the family, the school, the church or the community, and costly since it imposes suffering, loss of liberty and great expense.
So criminal law must be an instrument of last resort. It must be used as little as possible. The message must not be diluted by overkill - too many laws and offences and charges and trials and prison sentences. Society's ultimate weapon must stay sheathed as long as possible. The watchword is restraint - restraint applying to the scope of criminal law, to the meaning of criminal guilt, to the use of the criminal trial and to the criminal sentence.
Law Reform Commission of Canada, Our Criminal Law
One issue which has arisen as a result of the police referral approach is related to the provisions in Bill C-41, Section 717 (Alternative Measures) which Parliament recently passed. It is framed similarly to provisions in the Young Offenders Act which seem to require referral to proceed through Crown Attorneys or agents of the Attorney General. Police can act as agents of the Attorney General but other players in the system feel safeguards for the offender could be reduced if the Crown is not involved in scrutinizing the referrals.
The diversion project is trying to work out a protocol with the Public Prosecution Service which would allow for the direct referral from police of agreed upon offence types with perhaps more serious offences being referred through Crown Attorneys. The referral system has been very successful thus far and there has been no evidence of "net widening" or any abuse of offenders' rights.
The options available for resolution of cases include restitution, letters of apology, volunteer community service work, personal service to victims and/or charitable donations. Should the offender fail to complete the agreement, the matter will be returned to court for processing.
While an early evaluation study indicates that most cases being referred concern shoplifting and minor assault, the fraud charge cited above illustrates the potential for even more serious cases being diverted. As people experience satisfying justice through diversion, public and professional confidence in diversion is bound to increase.
Ms. Janis Aitken,
Senior Probation Officer
Suite 112 - 277 Pleasant Street
Dartmouth Professional Centre
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Tel. (902) 424-5350
Fax (902) 424-0705
British Columbia has operated an adult diversion project on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland since the 1970s; the program has recently been expanded to include the entire province.
Analyst - Adult Community Services
B.C. Corrections Branch
7th floor, 1001 Douglas St.
Tel. (604) 356-7521
Fax (604) 387-5698
Community Council Diversion Project - Aboriginal Legal Services Toronto, Ontario
The Community Council Project of Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto allows the native community in Canada's biggest city to take a measure of control over the way the criminal justice system deals with native offenders. Rather than a court trial and criminal record, an accused person who admits responsibility for an offence receives an alternative type of sentence such as restitution, community service, counselling or treatment. Any option but jail is available to those conducting a Council hearing as they begin the healing process necessary to reintegrate the individual in the community. Most being diverted through the project have already been to jail before. Assault, soliciting, minor property and petty fraud offences are the most common charges being diverted.
"The concept of the Community Council is not new," a program description states. "This is the way justice was delivered in Native communities in Central and Eastern Canada for centuries before the arrival of Europeans to North America. It is also the way that disputes continue to be informally resolved in many reserve communities across the country.... We know that the current system does nothing but provide a revolving door from the street to the jail and back again for most native accused."
This diversion project occurs at the "front end" of the justice system. The native approach it recommends is quite similar to circles or community or elders' panels which are taking place at a later point, i.e. at the time of sentencing. After the Crown consents to the diversion, the individual is required to consult with defence or duty counsel to have the Council process explained, in-cluding potential sentences and consequences for not complying with them. Those who feel they are not guilty of the offence are urged to go to trial. If the accused agrees to have the case diverted, charges are stayed or withdrawn by the Crown.
The project acknowledges that realistic and meaningful sentences will depend on adequate resources in the community; because many agencies are already stretched in serving clients, any expansion of the project will be guided by available resources.
If an individual does not comply with a decision of the Council, they are asked to reapppear before the Council to explain themselves. A person who fails to comply with a decision is not allowed to use this option again. Charges, however, are not laid again if a person does fail to comply with an order other than in exceptional circumstances. Charges can be brought back if the individual failed to appear for the Council hearing.
Community Council Coordinator
Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto
97 Spadina Avenue
Tel. (416) 408-3967
Fax (416) 408-4268
The Court Outreach Project - Helping the Mentally Ill Offender Ottawa, Ontario
A Few Stories
In Toronto, an elderly man who was nabbed for "theft under" is visibly confused during his first court appearance to face the charge. A brief adjournment is called while a community therapist does a quick assessment and determines the man is exhibiting some signs of dementia. A longer adjournment is granted and the therapist works closely with the man, finds him a bed in a nursing home and treatment from a psychologist. Back in court, the charge against the man is stayed as the crown concedes that a sentence and record will do neither the man nor society any good. The community worker keeps in touch with him.
In Ottawa, Sgt. Paul Taylor, a police court liaison officer with expertise in dealing with the mentally ill offender, sees a problem brewing in John's life, one likely to end up in the courts. John is a 42-year-old male who has been diagnosed as developmentally delayed and schizophrenic. John has been living at a local shelter for men for almost eight years and Sgt. Taylor is concerned that he is being exploited by other residents; he also is familiar enough with him to suspect John will get into trouble with the law in the near future in order to secure attention and help. It has been his history before to do just that and end up with police charges. Through Sgt. Taylor's initiative, an outreach worker in a pilot court project met with John and helped him find and move into a new residence. He is reportedly adjusting well.
The Court Outreach Project provides a much needed flexible support service to individuals who are psychiatrically disabled, homeless or at high risk of being homeless and who are also in minor conflict with the law.
To date, only those charged with minor offences qualify. These include minor assault, vandalism, not paying at a restaurant or setting fires to keep warm. The Crown will still proceed with a case when the crime is serious such as homicide or assault with a weapon, or if the person is believed to be a danger to the community.
"They're people who are in the criminal justice system because of their illness," observes Crown Attorney Andrejs Berzins. ".... The normal criminal sanctions don't really make a lot of sense to them."
Berzins began to notice an increase in the number of mentally ill people in court - currently about 10 a week, triple what it was three years ago. He predicts the numbers will continue to grow as the province closes more psychiatric hospital beds. These individuals, many homeless, try to cope with little formal community support; some stop taking their medication.
The mentally ill person is referred through the project to two outreach workers who help to arrange for a shelter and permanent housing. They also look after medical appointments, psychiatric assessment and treatment, and contact with mental health workers. For the accused, it is an alternative to going through a trial or awaiting a psychiatric assessment in the regional detention centre. In the past, minor charges could also be dropped but only after several court appearances. As well, because of bed shortages at a local psychiatric hospital, some people were spending up to four weeks in jail waiting for assessments. They were there often because they were too confused to direct a lawyer for a bail hearing.
"Simply withdrawing the charge without a support net to fall into is not good enough," says Berzins. "We're trying to build some sort of net for these people."
Crown Attorney's Office
3rd floor- 161 Elgin St.,
Tel. (613) 239-1200
Fax (613) 239-1214
One consequence of changes in the mental health system has been the movement of the mentally ill out of that system's institutions and into jails. Some jurisdictions and service providers are addressing this and related problems of the mentally ill offender. (See Winnipeg's Opportunities for Independence program near the end of this section.) In British Columbia, as a follow-up to the Mental Health Initiative in 1987, an inter-ministerial committee surveyed mentally disordered persons with prior contact with the criminal justice system. The survey concluded individuals move across system boundaries; many in the community offended again and a number were incarcerated again. The lack of community support exacerbated the problem. Two projects addressing these needs were initiated. The Mentally Disordered Offender Protocols initiative in 1992 developed guidelines and identified areas where protocols were needed to improve the coordination of treatment services for mentally disordered persons in conflict with the law. The goal was to formulate a consistent, efficient, coordinated and humane province-wide response. The Inter-ministerial Project assists individuals in the criminal justice system who have psychiatric, behavioral or psycho-social problems, helping them reintegrate into the community and improve their quality of life by reducing the number of rehospitalizations and reincarcerations.
A Community Alternative to Jail for Sexual Offences Canim Lake, British Columbia
This diversion program was set up to deal primarily with sexual assault and related offences. Canim Lake is an aboriginal reserve in northern British Columbia which had been plagued by the problem of sexual abuse. In the words of one leader, imprisoning everyone responsible would leave very few men in the community. There was overwhelming support to have offenders undergo treatment and deal with consequences within the community itself as an alternative to incarceration. Besides, as one Crown Attorney explained, the community had been "driven to diversion because the strong arm of the law, which people originally wanted to protect them, had revealed itself to be a safety net with too many holes in it." A pure law enforcement response to the problem was too costly and ineffective, especially for isolated communities.
After a study which revealed the high rate of sexual abuse, the native band hired consultants who recommended it combine polygraph examinations and therapy to assist in monitoring and treating sex offenders.
The polygraph has been a controversial aspect of the innovative program. There must be mutual agreement among the victim, offender and Crown that the case can be referred. Offenders sign a waiver agreeing to the use of the polygraph as part of their treatment. They must submit to a police polygraph test in disclosing present and past offences. This is viewed as a form of "cleansing" and a step to initiate the process of community reconciliation. The first person referred to the program in January, 1994 admitted during the disclosure test to 21 additional sexual assaults. It was determined he had assaulted approximately 45 victims.
There was concern on the part of police and Crown about what to do when individuals admit to unrelated serious violent offences which would normally be prosecuted. It is understood now that offenders may be processed formally if the serious offences they admit to occurred in other jurisdictions off the reserve.
An integral part of Canim Lake's two-year pilot project is working with victims.
Canim Lake Band
Charlene Blue, William Boyce
100 Mile House, B.C.
Tel. (604) 397-2227
Fax (604) 397-2769
The Micmac Diversion Council of Lennox Island Prince Edward Island
This project relies on the principles of "reintegrative shaming" and community involvement to keep people from reoffending. Reintegrative shaming is a phrase coined by Australian criminologist, John Braithwaite, to describe the positive process of denouncing a person's behaviour without rejecting the person, avoiding any harmful stigmatization.
Lennox Island is located off the north coast of Prince Edward Island and is home to approximately 300 native people. When a person commits a crime, and admits responsibility, he or she meets with a local justice committee which includes an elder, a young person, someone from a single-parent family and someone from a two-parent family. Together, they decide what the penalty will be. The Council members know the offender and want to impose a sentence which will help the offender and satisfy the victim.
Again, as with the previously described Toronto aboriginal project, the Micmac justice project is an example of diversion and therefore at the front end of the justice system. Through the diversion council, the community becomes aware of the crime and is involved in its resolution. This project has been underway for over four years now and deals with mostly minor crimes such as vandalism and other property offences. Repeat offenders may be eligible pending police approval. It encountered initial problems related to youth on the reserve not wanting anything to do with community justice. They preferred the anonymity of the city's youth courts, a good distance away from people who knew them. A project description notes that "the threat of standing before and being judged by one's own peers who know you and your family is considered shameful and generally more feared by natives than being processed under an alienating and depersonalizing Canadian criminal justice system." It is a reminder that, on the one hand, genuine community justice must be sensitive to these issues and, on the other hand, is perceived by some as "tougher" in the sense that it is more challenging to the offender.
This alternative system of justice is intended to encourage the evolution of a more effective justice system which will be sensitive to the cultural and social needs and aspirations of the native people of Lennox Island
Lennox Island, P.E.I.
Tel. (902) 831-2493
Fax (902) 831-3153
E.V.E. (Entraide vol à l'étalage - Stoplifting) Montréal, Québec
This story concerns a 33-year-old woman charged with shoplifting who was facing the prospect of six months in prison because she had a previous record of nine convictions for shoplifting and one for drunk driving.
Manon was very nervous when she was caught shoplifting from the "Pharmacie Jean-Coutu"; she cried and begged the security officers not to call the police. This was not her first arrest, she was very familiar with the criminal justice process and she knew that, unfortunately, local justice officials (judges and prosecuttors) were also becoming very familiar with her as well....
Despite her pleas, however, she was charged with shoplifting goods for a value of $180.00 and she asked her lawyer what sentence she could expect if she pleaded guilty. When advised that the prosecutos intended to request six months in prison, Manon was very upset. She is the single parent of a two-year-old boy and did not want to be separated from him. At her insistence, her lawyer promised to look into the possibility of some alternatives.
On the morning of Manon's first court appearance, the liaison worker for the E.V.E. (Stoplifting) program was on duty as usual to inform all the women accused in courtroom #1 of the Municipal Court of Montréal of the existence of that program. Manon listened with interest as the worker explained that:
- the program is an alternative to prison sentences in cases of shoplifting;
- it is geared to women of 18 years of age and over who are charged with shoplifting and who admit responsibility for the offence;
- it consists of 12 weekly group sessions of two hours each;
- from a clinical point-of-view, the intervention aims to prevent repeat theft.
Manon asked to participate in the program, her lawyer agreed and the judge consented to a request that he wait until the program was over before ruling on sentence. Manon met with one of the program workers who accepted her into the program which she followed from September 5 to November 21, 1995.
In the course of the program, Manon was particularly interested by the discussions and the exercises done in group. She thought a lot about the consequences of her behaviour, both personal and social, she drew up a balance sheet of the advantages and costs of shoplifting and identified effective means she could use to stop herself from doing it again. At the end of the program, the worker for her group was able to advise the Crown and defense lawyer that she had successfully completed its requirements.
At her sentencing hearing, the judge emphasized to Manon that participating in the E.V.E. program had allowed her to avoid a sentence of six months in prison; she received a two-year suspended sentence.
In Manon's own evaluation of what the program had meant for her, she commented that meeting a woman in her group who had already done some time in prison made her realize all the more how terrible that would have been for her and her child. The worker had helped her find some practical ways to stop stealing. "For example, I now often go to the food bank in my neighbourhood.
Before the program, I didn't even know it existed."
This diversion program for shoplifters is run by the Elizabeth Fry Society of Québec and is modelled on similar programs offered by the Elizabeth Fry Societies of Calgary and Toronto.
The program Entraide vol à l'étalage originally received referrals from a variety of social agencies to respond to the needs of women experiencing a problem with shoplifting even though they may not have been in trouble with the law. After a year of operation it began to specialize in offering an alternative to women who had been through the courts and were repeat offenders. In seven years, it has dealt with over 1,100 women referred from the 27 municipal courts with whom it has a service agreement. It has been able to provide service to 72 groups thanks in part to a large number of volunteer professionals who have donated their time.
The program varies according to the needs of participants but tends to emphasize accountability and "reality therapy" vis-à-vis their law-breaking activity. Some common themes relate to self-control methods, various causes of shoplifting and the different effects of the behaviour for businesses and their employees, the criminal justice system, family and spouse. Ninety-seven per cent complete the program successfully.
The program has revealed that the majority of the women who have shoplifted are financially underprivileged and facing a very difficult economic situation. In 1994-95, 85.7 per cent were unemployed and 51.9 per cent on some type of social assistance or unemployment insurance. Over 59 per cent live alone and 30.6 per cent are single parents. While 39 per cent were first offenders, at least 26 per cent had a record of more than six to ten previous infractions. Some women have been found to be suffering from depression or addictions and the program becomes an opportunity to make other appropriate referrals as well to work on underlying or associated problems.
At the Municipal Court of Montréal, a prosecutor is specially assigned to liaise with the shoplifters' program. Once the woman has been accepted into the program, a meeting is held with her and her lawyer to closely examine the file and to indicate to the woman what sentence will be suggested to the judge if she fulfils all the requirements. This is usually a joint submission with the defence and has almost always been accepted by the court. The management of all these shoplifting case files has been streamlined and many court costs have been saved because only nine per cent of all cases ever referred have ever had to go to trial.
Court officials believe that this is a good example of an alternative to imprisonment. According to prosecutor Maître Suzanne Béchard, sentences can be more individually tailored and need not be as concerned with seeking a deterrent effect because the program itself reduces the likelihood of recidivism.
Agente de liaison
5105 chemin de la Côté -St Antoine
Société Elizabeth Fry du Québec
Tél. (514) 489-2116
Fax (514) 489-2598
Youth Mediation Diversion Project Shaunavon, Saskatchewan
A group of frustrated parents in southwest Saskatchewan who were feeling helpless about "out of control" youth are now part of an imaginative, problem-solving, community action program.
Shaunavon is a small community of about 2,500 people. Eleven youths were charged with offences in 1993, including those involved when a private house party got out of hand. Leslie Goldstein is one of those parents who wanted to develop an alternative sentencing process among other initiatives. The outcome is an approach similar to a native senten-cing circle, operating through a youth mediation diversion program. Ms. Goldstein believes this is beneficial to the community because of an increased accountability that now exists between the offending youth and victims. Parents are pleased that the early intervention and mediation enable them to play a larger role in dealing with their child and his or her problems. They appreciate the improved communication among social workers, schools and police.
One parent convinced of the circle's superior form of justice is a woman whose son experienced both a circle and a court case last year because of two unrelated break and enter charges. In the court case, he was fined $70. For the charge which went to a circle, the boy, 12 at the time, received a 50-hour community service order along with an essay to write. His mother comments: "If you get the kids right away, I think the circle is far more beneficial," she said. "You have far more interaction with the community. It makes the boy think and see what he did. It makes more people in the community know and look out for him. In the court, it was a judge from another city. Here is your sentence. Good bye." The RCMP officer acknowledged in hindsight that the second break and enter charge could have been referred to a circle as well.
The youth mediation committee involves the youth, parents, the R.C.M.P. and three community members. It was set up by the Parents Support Group in conjunction with Saskatchewan Social Services, the Department of Justice and the local RCMP detachment.
Mediation groups decide the sentence rather than a judge in the court if the young person admits to committing the crime. The youth, his or her family and the victim have to agree to use the mediation process. No criminal charges are laid against the offender. A wide variety of sentences is available, including anything from restitution to community supervised probation.
It allows everyone to have equal input in clarifying the problem and in finding solutions. The process respects concerns relating to confidentiality, privacy and the right to consult with a lawyer. Cases that might take eight months to go to court are resolved within a month of the offence.
While the break and enter charges in the story are relatively minor, the diversion process melding mediation and a senten-cing circle underscore the potential of this justice process in communities for more serious offences.
Sgt. J.D. Lang
690 Center St.,
Tel. (306) 297-5550
Fax (306) 297-5554
Alternative Measures Programs
A Few Stories
A 14-year-old youth charged with "theft under" came into the Alternative Measures inquiry with his mother to choose some tasks to help him learn to make more responsible choices in the future. His overall behaviour at school and at home over the past three or four months had gone from bad to worse. He had been suspended from school once for fighting, had several detentions and was starting to skip as well. She noted that his reading skills were poor but there did not appear to be a disability.
The John Howard Society of Waterloo-Wellington had just developed a co-operative literacy program with Frontier College, believing that the root to some misbehaviour may stem from the lack of self esteem created by illiteracy. Students for Literacy at Wilfred Laurier University developed a one-on-one program for those 12 to 15-year-olds that were not covered by other reading circles. It is not intended to instruct but rather renew in young people a desire to read whatever - comics, magazines, street billboards, signs, etc.
The youth signed up for both the Partners in Reading and some community work. The Wilfrid Laurier University student met with him five or six times and what happened following these visits was quite remarkable. His mother noticed his attitude changed in the home. He was happier, more compliant with her requests, and willing to help out. She received calls from his teachers at school asking what had happened in the home because his behaviour at school improved so dramatically. His principal recognized and rewarded his positive disposition with major league baseball tickets.
In the words of one John Howard director, "here was a youth with the potential to become enmeshed in the criminal system through theft, possible truancy, possible association with criminal others and familiarity with the Criminal System, and yet through personal attention from focused positive young student volunteers he was rerouted to a better sense of self and his future."
A few years ago in Windsor, on New Year's Eve, 27 kids were involved in vandalizing a local school. Some youth had a police record. Some didn't. They faced the prospect of break and enter charges. Instead, Project Intervention, a pre-charge alternative measures program, facilitated a process which included meetings with the youth, school staff and parents and led to restitution of 30 hours of community service and each youth paying a portion of the damages.
Alternative measures are ways that disputes and certain offences can be dealt with rather than using expensive and unnecessary formal court proceedings. A bill passed in Parliament in 1996 allows the use of alternative measures for adults by permitting each province to set up and administer its own program similar to one used in various jurisdictions for young offenders. A recent Prince Edward Island study cited various reasons alternative measures make sense for adults as well as youth: they would help the person who may have made a mistake contrary to the way they usually live; they recognize there is little difference between someone just under 18 and someone just over 18; they help deal with people who have a mental handicap; they allow for discretion when offenders are influenced by difficult circumstances; they speed up the court system; and they make a person accountable.
The provisions of the program for youth are designed to determine whether a case that is submitted by the police will go to court, be filed without further action or resolved using an alternative measure. Alternative measures are intended to involve the community, put greater emphasis on victim-offender reconciliation, lessen the negative impact of incarceration for less serious cases and free up scarce resources to deal with more serious cases.
Where the programs are working well, youth learn to take responsibility for their actions after realizing that their lives do affect many people. Alternative measures can teach them a method of restoring trust and peace, sometimes through restitution or reparation. The young person avoids the much slower and formal court process and does not acquire a criminal record.
"I saw people with almost nothing buying what they want - not stealing. In my case, I have everything and instead of working for it, I resorted to stealing. I learned through my community work to give a little back to the community and not take things for granted...."
Youth in Alternative Measures Program
Examples abound in the country. Newfoundland's twenty-two programs are run by community volunteers on Youth Justice Committees; they encourage victims to participate in mediation sessions with the youth. Project Intervention has existed since 1978 as a pre-charge program in Windsor; police reduce the number of charges they lay but increase the number of referrals to social services for troubled youth and families. An extensive review of Prince Edward Island's program reported high satisfaction with their alternative measures, including support for the suggestion they be applied to adults; they were carried out much more quickly and more successfully with lower recidivism rates than in cases which went to court.
However, a series of National Crime Prevention Council cross-country consultations also pointed to disturbing weaknesses in the implementation of alternative measures. In some places they are not used very widely and too rarely promote the fundamental YOA principles of community involvement, reintegration of young people and reducing justice system intervention where appropriate. People told the Crime Prevention Council that Alterna-tive Measures programs are:
- widening the justice net by involving mainly young people who would not be brought into the justice system, but would merely receive a warning if the program did not exist.
- rewarding service groups and agencies that don't question the existing system, with contracts to manage Alternative Measures programs.
- reducing rather than expanding the range of community- based programs helping to reintegrate young people, by cutting funds to community programs not selected for Alternative Measures programs.
- restricting these programs to a narrow range of options such as essay or apology writing, which do not speak to the unique needs and realities of many young people and which do little to address the harm done or to reintegrate the young person into the community.
- exclude Aboriginal and minority youth because these youth are not seen to have the skills or family support to benefit from such programs.
John Howard Society of Waterloo-Wellington
289 Frederick St.
Tel. (519) 743-6071
Fax (519) 743-9632
880 Ouellette Ave. Suite 201
Tel. (519) 253-3340
Fax (519) 253-6476
Division of Youth Corrections
Department of Social Services
P.O. Box 8700
St. John's, Newfoundland
Tel. (709) 729-2480
Fax (709) 729-0583
Provincial Advisor - Criminal Justice and Corrections
4 Sydney St.
P.0. Box 2000
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Tel. (902) 368-6619 (6620)
Fax (902) 368-6136
For information on Alternative Measures programs in Québec:
Regroupement des Organismes Orienteurs du Québec
Tél. (514) 281-1858
Fax (514) 281-1859
2. Curative Discharge Program - Yukon Territories
This story concerns an innovative sentencing option for a man who was facing up to two years in jail for his fifth conviction for impaired driving.
(taken from a transcript of a C.B.C. Radio program)
JANET PATTERSON: Members of the Whitehorse RCMP Detachment lay more drinking and driving charges than they do for any other type of crime. Many of those charged are repeat offenders. They usually get sent to jail only to end up back on the road again once they're released, causing a danger to the public. But there are a few success stories, people who manage to beat their drinking problem and become safe and law abiding citizens. Some of these people have benefited from a little known program that's available by means of a special sentence from the court. It's called a curative discharge. Yukon Morning's Becky Streigler tells us the story of one man who made it through the program and changed his life.
BECKY: Driving is a privilege that many of us take for granted. But for Jack Simpson (not his real name) it's a privilege he's lost many times as part of his punishment for impaired driving. He's also served time behind bars. In 1993 the 39-year-old Whitehorse man was facing up to two years in jail for his fifth impaired. That was scary enough. But he also had another experience that made him realize his alcohol addiction had got way of hand.
JACK: I was in a blackout for up to almost 14 days. I don't remember anything. At one point in time when I came out of the blackout I was in my cabin and I realized I'd missed two weeks somewhere. I found a note in my pocket from a friend who'd gone through a similar thing 14 years before, saying when you're ready to talk come and see me. That's kind of what started it all.
BECKY: Jack stopped drinking and took the residential alcohol treatment program at the Crossroad Centre in Whitehorse. But he still had to go to court for his impaired charge and face a major jail sentence. That's when he learned about the curative discharge program.
JACK: My lawyer mentioned it to me, saying I could either do the two years or whatever time I get, or this would be an alternative. I wouldn't do any time as long as I did everything I was supposed to while I was in this program and didn't screw up.
BECKY: Jack wanted the territorial court to grant him a curative discharge. That meant he would avoid going to jail, but he had to show that he was determined to stay dry. He'd already done that in part by successfully finishing the alcohol treatment program. But there was something else he had to do, something that is key to the curative discharge program. He had to submit to blood tests every month for two years to prove that he wasn't sliding back into his drinking habit.
JACK: It was no problem for me because I had nothing to hide. The only problem was because of my job I'm out of town a lot for weeks at a time. But I could always make arrangements to get around that and get the blood tests as soon as I got back or before I left.
BECKY: Two years later, Jack has completed the program and has stayed away from alcohol....
The process to ask for a curative discharge usually begins with a defence lawyer requesting a medical-legal opinion. A doctor must show that a defendant is an alcoholic, that satisfactory treatment has been carried out or is to start and that there is a reasonable likelihood of success. The doctor's assessment goes both to the defence lawyer and Crown's office as the doctor wants to be viewed as an expert advisor to the Court rather than to any one lawyer.
If a curative discharge is granted, the Court usually gives a two to three-year probation, with the condition of follow-up alcohol and drug counselling and visits to the doctor for physical examination and blood testing. Complete abstinence from alcohol is a requirement. The doctor will see the individual once a month for the first three months, three times a month for the next six months and then six times a month until the probation order is over. This method identifies relapses and allows the court to be advised to take action and protect the public from a possible drunken driver. From a treatment perspective, a relapse caught in the earlier stages is easier to treat. Relapses are considered part of recovery.
Judge Heino Lilles estimates that only a handful of the drinking and driving cases end in curative discharges even though there were 240 charges laid in the previous year. People are not always ready to change and some resist the three-year monitoring period. "It's a heck of a lot easier, as people have told me, to go and do their three months, six months, nine months and get it over with and get back to their drinking." There has been a high success rate with people who received curative discharges, in large part because they had already decided they have to change. It is a reminder of how human nature and the human aspect of crime play an integral part in the success of these alternatives.
Adult Probation Service
William Sim - Manager
Department of Justice
Tel. (403) 667-5231
Fax (403) 667-3446
3. Community Service Orders
Community service orders are usually combined with a probation order as part of a sentence. They require offenders to do a certain number of hours of voluntary community work to fulfil the conditions of the sentence by carrying out a "reparative" gesture that can benefit the community. A most powerful example of how effectively this can be used is reported on in Section One in The Windsor Case of Kevin Hollinsky.
Community Service in Nova Scotia
Some Success Stories
A judge in Nova Scotia wrote to encourage the greater use of community service orders, either to have the offender work for the victim or in the community.
"There are many, many success stories," he said. " Two stand out. One is at the United Church in Pleasant River, Queens County where an offender sentenced to do 250 hours painted a mural of Christ at the front of their church. He was a talented artist. The other story is of the young lad and the 77-year-old caretaker at the Bridgewater Fire Department. One day when asked what he did with these lads he replied, 'You see that truck over there? Well we washed it. You see that floor? Well, we painted it. You see that bench? Well, sometimes we sit down on that bench and just have a talk'. Have you noticed all the "we's" not "he" did that? Could we ever use a lot more like that man!"
The judge noted that community service programs are approximately 93 to 95 per cent successful with a very low rate of repeaters. In Lunenburg and Queens Counties, since the inception of the program, over 115,000 hours of community service have been performed. "Multiply that by $5.00 per hour totals over three-quarters of a million dollars put back into the community," the judge commented.
Youth Alternative Society Halifax, Nova Scotia
Youth Alternative Society is a non-profit organization working with youth in conflict with the law through community service orders (as well as Alternative Measures and a Stoplifting program).
These programs work with urban and rural youth; in each community, the youth, families, victims and volunteers who facilitate the programs set the terms for the agreements deriving from mediation sessions and establish contacts in the community. Over 120 trained volunteers facilitate these programs.
In 1994, Youth Alternative Society worked with 770 youth between the ages of 12 and 15 years of age, a figure sure to increase now that it has begun working with 16 and 17-year-olds as well.
Youth Alternative Society is also designing a community-based, justice alternative aimed at youth at risk of re-offending. The program would be tied to the use of art, recreation and self-help therapy.
Youth Alternative Society
P.O. Box 8988
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Tel. (902) 424-5473
Fax (902) 424-0562
Travaux communautaires (Community Service Orders - Québec) Québec
This story concerns a man in his thirties convicted of sexually abusing his six-year-old daughter.
Upon arrest Paul lost his job as a para-legal. His marriage broke up and he was forbidden contact with his three children (two sons as well as the daughter) except for visiting privileges every second Saturday. The probation officer who prepared the pre-sentence report felt that he was very repentant for what had happened and wanted therapeutic assistance to help prevent it from ever happening again. She also felt that he was suffering from depression and isolation and that a determining factor of his rehabilitation would be to help him develop self-confidence. For all these reasons, a plan was proposed and accepted to tailor the sentence to meet these challenges. Instead of being sent to prison, he was sentenced to do 120 hours of community service in a large community agency that offers rehabilitation programs for people suffering from physical disabilities due to accident or illness. This placement was specially chosen for him to provide opportunities for social contact that could help build his self-esteem, at the same time as he was required to attend group therapy and AA.
The plan was in fact very effective. The exposure to people going through difficult experiences of their own stimulated him to reach beyond his tendency to egocentric self-pity and to become more aware of consequences for others. He also found the work very gratifying and his placement was a huge success; after the required hours had been completed, he continued on his own and was chosen as the centre's "volunteer of the year". He also went back to school to pursue further studies.
In Québec, community service orders are administered by Probation Services, to whom some cases are referred by the judge for a report to be prepared prior to sentencing, especially if the possibility of a community service order is being considered. Community service is never ordered without this kind of assessment to determine eligibility. In addition to referrals from judges for this specific purpose, probation officers carrying out pre-sentence assessments are searching for cases for which this alternative could be considered by a judge to whom it may not have occurred prior to receiving this information. They look for reliability, motivation, attitude, physical and mental capacity to make a positive contribution as a volunteer; they also consider whether there are any outstanding charges that could still result in a prison sentence, and whether community service would be a means of promoting a particular person's reintegration into society.
The probation officer discusses with offenders the kind of placement that most interests them and then gives them the directory for all local non-profit agencies so that they can choose for themselves and make the initial contacts on their own initiative.
The success rate has been very high. Most clients to whom this is proposed are very eager to participate. They see it as an opportunity to benefit from a genuine alternative to imprisonment.
Two More Examples in the Province:
This story concerns a 36-year-old woman charged with trafficking drugs who was facing the prospect of a prison term because she had a previous record for impaired driving and this was her second arrest for possession of drugs.
This woman had been addicted to cocaine since the age of eighteen. In this particular instance, however, the arresting police officer spoke to her in such a way that the experience had a profound impact on influencing her to want to turn her life around. By the time the pre-sentence report was done, she had already taken steps to make changes in her lifestyle and was in therapy. Instead of being sent to prison, she was sentenced to three years on probation and 100 hours of community service in an agency where she was particularly exposed to young families and family life; the plan was to provide her with an opportunity to work with people that would strengthen her self-esteem, and integrate her into social life and a work environment. The placement was very successful. Her contribution to the work of the agency was highly valued. She also enrolled in a special course to prepare her for employment and eventually qualified and was hired as a front-line worker in a therapeutic setting.
This story concerns a young man of 20 years charged with armed robbery who had shot his pistol in the air in the convenience store during the incident but had not directly attacked anyone. All the money from the robbery was recovered.
Antoine had no previous record and didn't present as "antisocial personality." To the contrary, he appeared to be someone with a long-standing pattern of hard-working, law-abiding behaviour who had found himself in a life crisis that he could not handle: he was suffering from burn-out from carrying two jobs and going to school; after giving up one job he had unfortunately been laid off from the other; he had experienced failure in the hockey career he had been trying to build up; he was experiencing financial difficulties because his unemployment cheques were not coming in; and he had been trying to protect his parents from his problems because they already felt inadequate for not having had sufficient money to support his development in hockey. He felt overwhelmed by his situation and had taken some drugs; he felt bitter towards society and was struggling with guilt vis-à-vis his parents' expectations.
The probation officer felt that this was a situational crime and, though Antoine was very repressed emotionally, he was capable of gaining some insight into what he had done. His parents' reaction to his crime caused him to reflect on the many issues with which he had been struggling.
By the time the case went to court, he had finished the course he was taking and had put in 70 applications for employment. He was expecting to receive a jail term but was hoping to be allowed to serve it on weekends so that he would not lose another job. Instead, he was sentenced to pay $250 as direct compensation to the store owner within 6 months; and he was also sentenced to 180 hours of community service in a seniors' residence carrying out maintenance tasks that made use of his job training and allowed him to use his skills to benefit society as a gesture of reparation for what he had done.
Services conseil au réseau
Direction du partenariat et conseil en services correctionnels
2525 boul. Laurier
Ste - Foy, Québec
Tél. (418) 528-0287
Fax (418) 644-5645
Community Service Orders - An International Perspective Sentencing to Service - Minnesota
Sentencing to Service is a jail reduction program born jointly out of very different needs of the Minnesota Department of Corrections and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Corrections was concerned about the increasing jail population. Natural Resources had insufficient staff, funds and time to care for millions of acres of land, water, forests and recreational trails which they manage. Sentencing to Service was intended to access a labour force which would benefit the public by improving management of the state's natural resources, increase sentencing alternatives for the court and decrease incarceration of non-dangerous offenders.
Private foundations funded the initial project efforts and the project was later expanded and funded by county, state, and federal resources. Politically, sheriffs and county commissioners report the public supports putting offenders to work and likes the work projects they complete.
Initial evaluation indicates uniform state standards must be developed because of the particular mechanics through which this CSO program is being integrated into the justice system there. Within the state, some offenders are getting one day off their sentence for every three days on the program, while others are getting a day for a day. Some judges allow an offender to get out of jail to work off a fine but give no credit for jail time. Others do. Project staff want to design proper evaluation in order to determine what jail costs are really saved, what per cent of people complete the program and which type of offenders are most successful.
"The vast majority of recent sentencing reform efforts have not resulted in the use of alternative dispositions for offenders who would previously have been incarcerated. Instead, sanctions such as restitution and community service appear to have gained increased acceptance throughout the criminal justice system, but almost entirely as additional conditions imposed upon offenders who would otherwise have received more traditional probation orders."
Professor Alan Harland Temple University
Like other alternative sanctions, Sentencing to Service (STS) may become an add-on sanction and simply broaden the net. There are other concerns about a "chain gang" approach to the project that can fuel a punitive more than a reparative orientation. There is also the potential threat to union employees. "Failure to remain sensitive to the turf of union employees will result in the demise of the program. STS is not intended to replace existing people and it should not," says John McLagan, project director. As well, a Sentencing to Service project has a cost associated with it. In rural Minnesota, it is estimated that a crew can be supported for about $43,000 per year. Cost savings come in the benefit from the labour, and jail days saved, but there is the counter- argument that "unless jails are so crowded that they need to purchase bed space elsewhere, the true cost savings is negotiable," McLagan notes.
Sentencing to Service Program
300 Bigelow Building
450 N. Syndicate Street
St. Paul, Minnesota 55104
Tel. (612) 642-0335
Community Service - Norway
In 1991, Norway's penal code was amended to include community service orders (CSO) as an independent sentence. A CSO of up to 360 hours may be imposed for an offence that otherwise could have resulted in a prison sentence of up to one year (there are exceptions permitted where a CSO may be applied for even more serious offences). The CSO sentence includes the term of imprisonment which may be imposed in a case of default. A CS0 is possible only when the offender is in agreement and deemed suitable.
The probation service may arrange community service through official and municipal institutions and private or voluntary organizations. Examples include hospitals, nursing homes, sports clubs, religious organizations etc.
There were 1026 community service orders in 1994, up from 944 in 1993. The breach rate was 29 per cent.
Community Service for Adults and Juveniles - The Netherlands
Traditionally, the Netherlands has had a tolerant attitude in general towards crime and consequently there has been a small number of custodial sentences and little need to resort to alternative sanctions. Rising crime and pressure on the prison system reversed the Netherlands' infrequent use of alternative sanctions.
In 1981, an experiment started with community service and other dispositions as an alternative to short-term imprisonment for adults (six months or less).
A few years later, community service for juveniles in the form of work projects was introduced. Community service orders are considered a kind of alternative sanction which can be imposed for juveniles by either the prosecutor or judge for all sorts of offences (property, violent, sexual and drug) and were to replace all existing traditional sanctions, including custody, fines and suspended sentences. Juveniles can receive alternative sanctions of up to 150 hours, and in very serious cases,of up to 200 hours.
Peter H. van der Laan reports that youth involved in alternative sanctions are held personally responsible for their acts; they have to fulfil tasks useful to others. Wherever possible, they are confronted with the harm, injury or damage they have caused. They must repair this damage, or make symbolic repairs of benefit to the community.
Evaluation indicates that net- widening is occurring in some instances. There were initial problems related to too few girls and youth from ethnic minorities receiving alternative sanctions. Significantly, those alternative sanctions were replacing fines and suspended custodial sentences more so than actual custodial sentences. Disappointed about the impact of alternative sanctions on the use of custody, the Netherlands introduced the Quarterly Course three-month day program, comparable to the intensive intermediate treatment program in England.
Ministerie van Justitie
Mr. A. Doeser
Policymaker, alternative sanctions
2511 EX den Haag
Tel. (070) 3 70 79 11
Fax (070) 3 70 79 31
Community Service - Zimbabwe and Swaziland
Community service orders have helped level off a recent dramatic upsurge in Zimbabwe's prison population.
A weak economy had been blamed both for people turning to petty crime and others being unable to pay fines. Wanting another option to prison besides fines, the government began promoting community service sentences; in 1992, 60 per cent of the country's prison population were serving sentences of three months or less. Between January, 1993 and October, 1995, approximately 6,000 people undertook community service working in childrens' and seniors' homes, hospitals and environmental projects. Community service in lieu of a prison sentence permits those convicted who had a job to keep on working and generating income, helping prevent other members of the family from turning to crime.
Penal Reform International was instrumental in establishing this project and finding funds. Volunteers from Prison Fellowship Zimbabwe eased the magistrates' workload in managing the community service programs. There was also a public awareness campaign and training about the purpose and operation of community service.
In Swaziland, an older but more modest community service program has prisoners released part-way through their sentence. The Swaziland Association for Crime Prevention and the Rehabilitation of Offenders runs this service with overseas funding.
Penal Reform International
169 Clapham Rd.
London SW9 0PU
Tel. (44) 171 582-6500
Fax (44) 171 735-4666
4. Intensive Supervision Probation
Intensive Supervision Probation generally consists of a probation order to which are attached numerous, very strict conditions that are tailored to varying degrees to the specific client. These conditions can include curfews, travel restrictions, educational and/or employment requirements, treatment programs and the like. Unfortunately, the conditions imposed are sometimes also too strict for the client to realistically follow, resulting in an admission to prison even when there has been no further criminal offence. As well, few probation orders are reparative in nature, and not all are meaningfully related to the offence or to what needs to be accomplished in each situation.
Legal Aid Youth Office Project Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta
Lawyer Jim Robb described the girl as a "throwaway", sentenced to two years in secure custody no doubt for her offences but also for the justice and social services systems giving up on her. This girl was typical of the street kids who may indeed have a "justice problem" in the courts but also have a "housing problem, an addictions problem and an education problem". Robb's Legal Aid Youth Office Project agreed to represent her on an appeal. His project strung together a case plan of five separate programs which existed in a number of different provincial and territorial jurisdictions; project workers would co-ordinate the plan. When the judge heard the proposal, he reduced her sentence from two years to the three-and-a-half months already served in custody, releasing her to begin the first of her programs.
"In our view, the press for more and longer incarceration is madness. We do not view youths in categories - they are individuals who have significant personal problems that must be addressed. Some of our most significant 'turn arounds' have been with 16 and 17-year-olds with long prior records and a past history of repeated incarceration."
Jim Robb, Legal Aid Project
This pilot project was launched more than two years ago in the youth courts of two major Alberta cities, Edmonton and Calgary. Although the project was not intended as a "youth crime project" - it is actually comparing the cost and quality of a staff model to the traditional judicare model of delivering Legal Aid-, there have been significant lessons with respect to alternative sentencing.
Working with youths requires much more than conventional legal work, even if the latter is the primary objective. The project employs a total of 14 lawyers and three youth workers who collaborate closely together. As the aim is to prevent the client from returning with further charges, there is a heavy emphasis on preventive work, rehabilitation and treatment. Staff search for programs in the community as a distinct alternative to incarceration. Help is also provided for youth who have been acquitted or had their charges withdrawn. Youth are encouraged to call at any time for help rather than wait for a full-blown crisis or further charges.
Robb refers to the "horizon problem" endemic in this type of work with youth. For example, a child welfare worker may look for resources in Edmonton and report back that there is nothing for a youth. "But the best program for that particular kid may be up north in Uranium City," he said. "We will look anywhere." The Legal Aid project moves across the boundaries of provinces and various systems to identify the programs most helpful for clients and get them there. In Edmonton, staff make referrals to over 70 agencies in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and the North West Territories. A recent sample of about 140 youths for whom case plans had been developed indicated that over 800 referrals were made for those youths. The case plans are obviously multi-faceted, intended to address issues of poverty, homelessness, substance abuse and mental health. Only ten of those 140 youth had their case plans rejected by the courts. As the girl's story illustrated, there has also been reductions in sentences, primarily for native, rural youth.
This project has encountered many challenges. A major problem is sheer volume, dealing with over 2,000 youths each year. There is a lack of community resources, worse for those in the younger group aged 12 to 14 years. It has also been tiring "swimming against the tide of government and public opinion which creates a lot of conflict.... We have groups of offenders who are vastly over-represented in the system - native youths are obvious. There tend to be fewer resources for females, particularly those who live on the street."
James C. Robb, Q.C.
Legal Aid Youth Office
9939 Jasper Ave.
Tel. (403) 427-8355
Fax (403) 427-9367
Community Reparative Probation Program Vermont
In 1994 and 1995, the state of Vermont embarked on a new course in corrections rooted in the belief that prisons frequently fail to serve society's needs and that a vital component - the community - has been missing from criminal sanctions. Part of the new initiative was a community Reparative Probation Program whose central theme is for an offender to come face to face with the community, a meeting at which an agreement is negotiated specifying ways that the offender will make reparation to the victims and the community. The goal is to have a probation sanction that responds to crime without unduly burdening the courts, corrections and other partners in the criminal justice system. Reparative Probation is an alternative to traditional probation because the program focuses mainly on issues related to the crime and repairing injuries to victims and the community. As well, victims and community citizens are provided opportunities to confront offenders for the purpose of promoting victim empathy.
Unlike traditional state probation which contains 12 standard conditions, the administrative probation order under this program is limited to one standard condition stipulating no further involvement in criminal activity, and any other specific condition pertaining to the specifics of the case. Through the program, the offender appears before a reparative board consisting of five citizens from the offender's respective community. At the meeting the board members and offender discuss the details and impact of the offender's behaviour. The result is an agreement between the Board and the offender stipulating specific activities that the offender will do to complete the program. Agreements focus on activities that are related to four goal areas: restore and make whole the victims of crime; make amends to the community; learn about the impact of crime on victims and the community; and learn ways to avoid re-offending. The person on reparative probation is not under traditional supervision. Compliance with the terms and agreement is the responsibility of the offender. Once the sanctions are agreed on and assigned by the board, the offender has 90 days to fulfil the agreement and complete the program. Upon completion, the board may recommend discharge from probation.
Program Director - Reparative Probation Program
Vermont Department of Corrections
103 South Main Street
Waterbury, Vermont 05671-1001
Tel. (802) 241-2796
The Dos Pasos Project for Pregnant and Addicted Women - Arizona
U.S. observers have noted that more women than ever are going to prison in that country, often for a variety of minor thefts, less serious crimes and prostitution. (This is increasingly true for Canada as well.)
Many of those women are substance abusers, with alcohol or other drug problems.
Many female offenders are also pregnant or have small children. Estimates of drug use during pregnancy are escalating.
All of these factors on their own are serious enough but taken together they pose a formidable crisis. In Arizona, people started to acknowledge the severity of this growing national problem and its local impact. Substance abuse treatment providers, the social service community and some representatives from the criminal justice system joined together to develop strategies to prevent, discourage and treat maternal drug use. Early intervention with pregnant, substance-abusing women increases the likelihood of prenatal care, for better health for mother and fetus, delivery of a drug-free infant and increased opportunity for success in drug/alcohol treatment. The initiative led eventually to the creation of the Dos Pasos Project to develop alternatives to incarceration programs for addicted women who are pregnant or a high risk for pregnancy.
" Dos Pasos believes that not only will the project reflect short-term cost savings, but will save the "hidden" costs to our public health systems as well. The additional benefits of interrupting the impacts of intergenerational substance abuse and criminal behaviour can only be estimated."
Elaine Calco-Gray, Dos Pasos Supervisor
Dos Pasos has a liaison coordinator who ensures that the court is aware of all available options before making a decision. Liaison activities include mediating disputes between staff from different agencies or systems. The project is intended to intervene during the arrest, booking, adjudication and sentencing stages. Client evaluations are done by Dos Pasos case managers who frequently go to the jail to interview women before their initial court appearance. There is a comprehensive intake procedure and evaluation. Women in the Dos Pasos program are often on probation. When they are released, they contact Dos Pasos to access case management services and referrals for their additional needs. That could include treatment programs, referrals to support groups, other prevention and education groups, prenatal care and assistance in obtaining housing, food, furniture and household items.
" At the moment, eight out of ten dollars that we give the provinces (for youth corrections) goes to custody costs. Well, that's easy in a sense. It's lazy. It just makes sure we build more facilities with locks on the doors.
I'd rather see that money... I'm going to negotiate it if I have the chance to see... that money spent in the other proportion over the next few years so that 80 per cent of it goes to alternatives."
Justice Minister Allan Rock
Early evaluation of resources had indicated there were virtually no programs available to address the special needs of pregnant women. Through collaborative effort and federal funding, Tuscon developed additional residential and day treatment programs that served the pregnant, addicted woman specifically.
Federal funding for The Dos Pasos project ended in February, 1996 and it was unclear whether there will be other funds obtained to continue it.
Alternative to Custody Program for Youth Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario
The John Howard Society of Waterloo-Wellington offers an Alternative to Custody Program to help young offenders to develop more effective ways of coping with every-day problems and stresses. The new program accepts all court referrals for an assessment but tries to limit entry to the program in order that it remain a true alternative to custody; part of its evaluation will be to assess if and how it achieved this goal.
Alternative to Custody builds on leading research by Dr. Alan Leschied who has identified a number of risk factors that increase the likelihood of delinquent behaviour:
- impulsive behaviour
- moral immaturity
- under-developed communication
- lack of empathy
- lack of conscientiousness
- unstable family life
- low level of supervision
- undesirable peer group
- exhibited anxiety
- aimless use of leisure time
- exhibited frustration and anger
- lack of interest in school and future
Participants learn how to think through and evaluate the consequences of their behaviour, specifically in terms of how it impacts on themselves and others. An important skill area is critical thinking. Youth also learn to recognize alternative solutions while assessing their own decision-making processes.
Alternative to Custody Program accepts referrals from probation and youth court judges for youth aged 12 to 15, concentrating on older youth involved in more serious offences. The program consists of three sequential phases which will last approximately four to six months. Clients and coordinators develop and implement a discharge plan to increase the youth's involvement in the community and encourage ongoing participation in pro-social activities. Follow-up is conducted on a quarterly basis for one year to monitor progress and evaluate program success. This program is funded by the Ministry of Community and Social Services which supports community-based alternative to custody programs that provide high frequency and high intensity services. The program operates in Kitchener, Cambridge and Guelph.
John Howard Society of Waterloo-Wellington
289 Frederick Street
Tel. (519) 743-6071
Fax (519) 743-9632
Second Chance - Restitution, Lloydminster, Alberta and Saskatchewan
Sometimes judges are reluctant to sentence youth to fines because the teens find it difficult to earn the money to pay and so end up in jail anyway. The Second Chance program offers the courts an intermediate option between custody and community service by helping youth to find employment and earn money to pay fines or restitution. The program strives to encourage youth to take responsibility for their actions and compensate the victims for their losses.
The money the youth earns from employment is funnelled directly into an account through the Saskatchewan courts. Restitution funds are forwarded to victims when the account covers the amount. The teens are given a small amount of money out of their pay for spending to discourage them from petty thefts and to learn they can earn money and see the benefits from work.
Young people found guilty of charges like theft, break and enter, vandalism and highway traffic offences are eligible for Second Chance. The program serves both native and non-native youth in this area close to the Saskatchewan and Alberta border; it is a joint venture of the Alternative Measures Program of Saskatchewan Social Services and The Lloydminster Native Friendship Centre.
Youth Project Coordinator
Lloydminster Native Friendship Centre
5010 - 41 Street
Tel. (403) 875-6558
Fax (403) 875-3812
Intensive Intervention Program, St. John's, Newfoundland
Newfoundland's Social Services department has recently launched an Intensive Intervention Program for youth funded in part by re-directing some of the money now being spent on custody to community-based programs. In Newfoundland, it costs $120,000 per year for one youth to serve a secure custody sentence and $70,000 for a youth in an open custody home. Interestingly, when those figures were cited in a conference and subsequently reported in a newspaper, a provincial court judge hearing a case the next week refused a social worker's recommendation for a custodial sentence, citing the figures mentioned in the newspaper story.
The hope is that an intensive intervention program will reduce the risk of being sentenced to custody and the time spent in custody. Ten additional social workers and two community service workers were hired to provide services to a limited number of families and youths who are identified as being at high risk of being sentenced to custody. Social Services has control of who enters the program, choosing youth already on probation. If they have new charges pending, the judge can take the Intensive Intervention Program into account.
"It costs $120,000 a year, just for salaries and maintenance, to keep a youth at the Whitbourne Youth Centre. This doesn't include lawyers' fees, counselling, transportation or other costs...
In spite of the cost, there hasn't been "a drop of evidence that young people who go there do better when they come out"...
Gale Burford, Memorial University, Newfoundland, quoted in St. John's Telegraph
Selection of youths for referral to the program will be determined within Social Services by the youth corrections supervisor rather than as a sentencing alternative by the Court. However, when a youth is selected for intensive intervention, and is also due to appear in Court for a new disposition or custodial review, the intensive intervention plan will be presented to the Court. The Court might then issue a community disposition which may contain conditions that reflect and support the intervention plan. The action plan for the social worker is to be guided by many intervention strategies, including family support, individual and group counselling, crisis planning through a co-ordinated multi-agency response, community integration, advocacy for support services and organization of day programs, supervision and behaviour management.
In order to reduce the rates of committal to custody, the intensive intervention program must both provide a legitimate alternative for those who would otherwise be sentenced to custody and strive to reduce the risk of re-offending.
Intensive intervention continues as long as the potential for a positive impact can be expected. Its termination will be based on several factors, including the expiry of a court order, reduced risk, other options available for service delivery or a decision that further intervention will not be productive.
Department of Social Services
Confederation Building - West Block
P.O. Box 8700
St. John's, Nfld.
Tel. (709) 729-2794
Fax (709 729-0583
We also provide a contact for a British Columbia program, Fraser Valley Youth Supervision Program.
Fraser Valley Youth Supervision Program
P.O. Box 3444
Tel. (604) 532-1268
Fax (604) 532-1269
Eastwood Outreach Program, Edmonton, Alberta
The following letter is from a youth attending the Eastwood Outreach Program. We did not correct his spelling.
"In 1990, I was fighting, steeling and steeling cars. I quite for about a year then in 1993 I kiked a boy in his mouth and broke his two front teeth. In 1993 I waz samashing school windows and in 95 I waz arrested three times for steeling cars but I learned my lesson when I went to jail and got out Oct. 31 and came to the program and it changed me for a long time."
His mother also wrote, confirming her son's story and adding that she had basically given up on him as she was unable to get him away from a group of boys persistently in trouble.
About 20 of Eastwood's students are "hardened" youth with long criminal records. They come to Eastwood on probation, either directly from the courts or a youth facility. The program is located in a small storefront office and is designed for students who are experiencing personal or academic difficulties and are likely to quit school. Teachers strive to develop "success-oriented attitudes and behavioral norms". The classroom is opened 90 minutes before class. During this time, students share current home or school concerns with the teacher, privately at first, then later as a group. Morning exercises involve academic, work and social skills. In the afternoon, the students concentrate on job shadowing and volunteer activities.
Eastwood Outreach Program
12023 81 Street
Tel. (403) 477-2752
Fax (403) 474-7693
Rideau Street Youth Enterprises, Ottawa, Ontario
This story describes intensive programming to assist and train youths in trouble with the law in order to prevent the likelihood of custody.
Don moved from a small town to Ottawa with his family during Grade Eleven. He began attending Rideau High School and, as he put it, "had too much fun". He soon got caught up in a lifestyle of smoking marijuana and drinking. He was refused entry into high school the next year. At the age of 17, Don was charged with the possession of a narcotic for the purpose of trafficking, convicted and given a sentence of 18 months probation and community hours.
At the time, he was out of work, had no fixed address and was receiving social assistance. Subsequently, he was charged with breach of the earlier probation on three counts, including failure to complete community hours and running a red light on a bicycle. At the suggestion of a friend, Don came to Rideau Street Youth Enterprises while waiting trial for the above charge. In February of 1995, he worked as a casual labourer on the Initiatives side (job bank) of the program and was accepted into the RSYE No-Sort Recycling program in July. In October, he went to court for sentencing on the three counts of breach. The director of the program wrote a letter to the judge explaining the program and how Don had become more stable, found an apartment and was taking high school correspondence courses. At sentencing, the Judge told Don that he had originally planned a custody sentence but decided against it to keep Don in the program. He was given a sentence of three months probation.
At this time, Don, 20, is one credit away from completing his grade twelve and plans to either join the military as a field engineer or go to college and take drafting. He was adamant in wanting to keep improving his situation. Don would definitely recommend the program to others as it gives them employment, helps them to get identification papers if they have none, puts them back in school, gives them spending money and increases their morale and self-esteem. He recommends it especially for those in trouble with the law.
Punitive measures are measures of despair. They reflect our frustration with youth and an aging population that fears youth more and tolerates youth less. But measures of despair do not breed confidence in the justice system nor do they act to reduce criminal activity. They act to build further divisions between generations and allow the older generations to ignore the increasingly difficult economic, employment and otherwise highly stressed environments that our children are raised in today.... Our young people are too vulnerable and too valuable to use them as a balm for unrelated public anxiety.
John Howard Societies of Canada, Alberta and Ontario, Nov. 20, 1995
Rideau Street Youth Enterprises is classified as a training program serving "hard to serve" young adults, age 18-24, including many who have been in trouble with the law and are often between court dates. The program itself involves the running of a recycling business called "no-sort recycling". Contracts are made with small businesses to pick up their recyclable products that are brought to the warehouse, sorted and then sold to hauler/processors. Revenue is fed back into the program. When clients graduate from the program, they are eligible for a $2,000. voucher which is given provided the client is going to work or to school. Clients have one year to collect the voucher.
This program reduces the use of custody in that the judge at the time of sentencing receives a report stating that the youth is involved in this program and will often refrain from giving a custodial sentence so that the youth can continue with Rideau.
Participants attend Rideau Street Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., acquiring job skills and attending correspondence classes, mandatory weekly meetings with a career planning counsellor and visiting a support worker from the Youth Services Bureau to deal with any problems such as housing, addiction etc. They earn $200 weekly. To be accepted into the program, the applicant must at the time of application not be: working, going to school or living in a stable environment. Every nine months, Rideau Street can work with approximately 10 youth although they receive about 50 applications for the same period.
The program began in May of 1994, with funding from the federal government. Funding continued to be provided by Youth Services Canada but ended in March, 1996 when it was hoped funding could be renewed by private/corporate donors. Funding remains the major obstacle to the program in addition to the difficulty of employing individuals who have little to no work experience and therefore take a great deal of time to train.
Rideau Street Youth Enterprises
112 Nelson St. - Unit 101A
Tel. (613) 562-3864
Fax (613) 562-0773
Sober Streets, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario
Sober Streets is a John Howard Society program trying to change the thinking of hardcore recidivist impaired drivers through a "confrontational, non-punitive approach". In the Kitchener-Waterloo region, there were some 1100 impaired driving charges laid in 1994; studies indicate about 60 per cent of impaired drivers had been charged earlier.
Many enrolled in Sober Streets are referred by probation. Most have an average of five impaired driving charges. This ten-week group program asks participants to look at the rationalizations they have used to allow themselves to continue drinking and driving in the face of serious public anger towards this problem. They look at costs of their behaviour, from both the victim perspective and their own emotional and financial circumstances. A highlight is a guest speaker from M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), the presentation often triggering genuine remorse and personal motivation to change. "This is something that they all disclose has been absent in them up to this point, something that time in custody or other punitive methods could not achieve," commented program coordinator Alex Smart.
Coordinator - Sober Streets
John Howard Society of Waterloo-Wellington
289 Frederick Street
Tel. (519) 743-6071
Fax (519) 743-9632
Repeat Impaired Driving Project, Prince Edward Island
The Repeat Impaired Driving Development and Demonstration Project wants to reduce the social and personal harm caused by impaired driving by providing a range of more intensive services to those convicted and sentenced for this offence.
In Prince Edward Island, about one-third of the total impaired driving convictions are repeaters - about 200 convictions yearly. The island's conviction rate is higher than the national average. It is estimated that for each impaired driving detection, the driver has actually driven impaired anywhere from 900 to 2,000 times. Upwards of 80 per cent drive after disqualification.
The project has as its immediate goal a more intensive case management, treatment and follow-up for clients. The first few individuals in the project have had adjustments to fines but not to custodial sentences. The project's model is proposing to look at possible use of adjournments, using a probation order with repeat offenders and introduction of conditional sentences, in accordance with changes to the Criminal Code in 1996 (provisions under Bill C-41; there is always the danger, however, with conditional sentences, that an excessive or unrealistic number of conditions placed on the individual will in fact lead to future incarceration, even though no new criminal offence took place).
Isabel Christian - Coordinator
Repeat Impaired Driving Project
Charlottetown, PEI C1A 7N8
Tel. (902) 368-4237
Fax (902) 368-5236
Adolescent Addictions Program, Prince Edward Island
This story concerns a youth convicted of "theft under" who was provided while on probation with intensive intervention related to an addictions problem.
The impact of drunk driving on the justice system is enormous. In the five jurisdictions where justice statistics were provided (Quebec, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Yukon) impaired driving was the most frequent offence dealt with in the courts - in each case more than double the number of any other type of offence.
Statistics Canada report, December 4, 1995
Carl (not his real name), 17, is the middle child of three boys. Carl's parents were married at a young age, only 17 themselves when their first child was born.
Carl appears to have been raised in an environment which valued honest work and family. However, at the same time, his dad gave him a double message. Carl stated that throughout his childhood he was aware of his father's illicit drug use. Carl said he had happy childhood memories but prior to his parents' separation in 1991, he recalls a significant amount of turmoil in his home. His parents separated on his thirteenth birthday. He continues to have difficulty with the separation. He started using drugs at 14. He kept this hidden from his mother for almost three years until one day his school principal telephoned to tell her Carl had been caught using drugs.
He was expelled from school in November 1994.
Carl was later charged with "theft under" and a condition of probation was his attendance with the Adolescent Outpatient Detoxification program. He would have been given custody if he did not fulfil this condition. He began the program with a positive drug reading and successfully completed the program with a negative one. He was accepted into an Educational Alternative program. He successfully completed his year and is registered at the senior high school.
Carl has a good relationship with his older brother and his paternal grandparents. He fights with his younger brother when "he is on edge" but this has improved. Carl had a slip on July 1, 1995 and another in October. He re-entered the 12-week program and continues his studies at the high school.
"Indeed, in 1991 our rate of youth sentenced to custody was 447 per 100,000. In England and Wales, it's 69. In Scotland, it's 86. Collectively, Canadian governments spend over $250 million each year locking up young offenders whose most serious offence was non-violent. Five out of six young people in custody are there for non-violent offences.
... to keep a young person in secure custody costs more than $100,000 a year in seven Canadian jurisdictions and it reaches as high as $300,000 in the territories. That's a shocking amount of money."
Justice Minister Allan Rock, Nov. 20, 1995
This comprehensive Adolescent Addictions Program includes prevention, education, detoxification, treatment and aftercare, using an integrated service delivery model. It is offered through a partnership of Prince County Addictions Services, Young Offender Custody Programs and the island Western School Board. It is part of an overall plan to increase the accessibility of clinical services to all youth who need them.
East Prince County Addiction Services
216 Schurman Avenue
Summerside, Prince Edward Island
Tel. (902) 888-8380
Fax (902) 888-8393
Multi-Agency Preventative Program (MAPP) for High-Risk Youth, Brandon, Manitoba
The Brandon Youth Services Committee, which consists of 22 agencies, established the Multi-Agency Preventative Program (MAPP) as one of a series of initiatives to benefit high-risk youth. MAPP, acknowledging that youth are also part of family and community systems, endorses a holistic approach which is intended to have an impact on permanently changing behaviour and ensuring a safer community. The project pulls together key agencies on a monthly basis to develop coordinated case management plans and monitor strategies which include community and family support.
MAPP will focus on the forty highest-risk youth in Brandon. More specifically, it has hired three individuals to develop and test strategies of tracking the ten highest-risk youth who are also on probation. The project will attempt to determine whether or not intensive monitoring of these youth is effective in reducing the problem behaviour which might otherwise lead to custody in the future.
Workshops on parenting skills and support groups for parents are part of MAPP's overall strategy. Organizations involved in the program include schools, police, probation, prosecution, mental health, child welfare, social agencies, addiction treatment and native groups.
Meanwhile, the Assessment, Intervention, Monitoring Program (A.I.M.) is a new probation supervision program for youth in the Brandon area stressing intensive monitoring. It is described as "strict, holds the youth accountable and has built-in levelling systems that are more or less restrictive depending on the behaviour of the youth.... Rules and expectations are very clear and every possible attempt is made prior to a breach." It has been approved by the local judges, Crown's office and defence counsel representative.
MAPP for High-Risk Youth
Community and Youth Corrections
603 Princess Avenue
Tel. (204) 726-6469
Fax (204) 726-6531
5. Family Preservation Model
The Family Preservation Program is an intensive, in-home service offered on a voluntary basis to families who have youth between the ages of 12 and 17 who are in custody or who are at high risk to spending some time in custody. Family Preservation focuses on the family, not the "problem child", with a strong commitment to maintain children in the home wherever possible. The program both builds on family strengths and identifies how family functioning along with its values and beliefs may be contributing to the youth's unlawful behaviour. The community is also a target for change. Family Preservation attempts to decrease the youth's undesirable community involvement, develop adequate formal and informal supports and make good use of relationships with other service providers.>
Allan Leschied and others have identified this approach as an effective alternative to custody. "The treatment is brought to the family," notes therapist Scott Henggeler. "We haven't invented a new treatment. We've taken the best of what's out there, integrated it effectively and then overcome barriers to change."
Family Preservation Program, La Ronge, Saskatchewan
In May of 1995, a 15-year-old named Jeff was referred to the Family Preservation Program by the community youth worker of the Young Offender Unit. In the referral, it was stated that Jeff was to appear in youth court on three charges of break, enter and theft. Since Jeff had previously been convicted on two other separate occasions for property related offences, he was considered a likelly candidate for a custody disposition.
Upon entering the Family Preservation Program, Jeff and his family participated in a risk, needs and strengths assessment. The purpose of this assessment was to determine what factors were influencing Jeff's behaviour and what resources would be needed to deal with those behaviours. Additionally, any family strengths or possible supports within the extended family could be shown as well.
From the assessment process, it was noted that: Jeff was not currently enrolled at school, and had not been there for some time; there were indications that he was using drugs quite frequently; the relationship between Jeff and his mother was constantly in conflict; there were no rules of clear boundaries in the home.
Based on these issues, a case plan was designed by Jeff, his mother and the Family Preservation Program worker in which he would: enroll and attend an alternate educational school program; attend outpatient drug and alcohol treatment; participate in anger management counselling; assist his mother in establishing rules of behaviour at home; abide by the conditions of an intensive supervision program provided through Family Preservation Support services.
On completion, Jeff, his mother and worker attended court and presented this case plan. The Youth Court judge sentenced Jeff to one year probation with conditions. An estimated four months in custody was avoided.
Families are usually involved with the program anywhere from three to five months, with workers given small case loads in order to maintain frequent contacts and be available 24 hours a day in case of a crisis. Workers may help the youth and families develop effective conflict-resolution skills, identify positive ways to deal with stress, assess the role of peers in the youth's conflict with the law, find appropriate accommodation, enhance parenting skills and act as liaison with schools and agencies.
Saskatchewan Social Services estimates that the Family Preservation Program is keeping 22 youths per day out of secure custody and 15 youth per day out of open custody. The program has saved an estimated $500,000 compared to having the same number of youth in custody facilities and Community Homes. La Ronge is one of six provincial sites.
A La Ronge program report notes that the greatest factor contributing to causing delinquency is "poor family relationships marked by negativity, over-criticism, conflict and especially rejection. Child/youth's self-esteem needs to be a goal of service."
Family Preservation Program workers note it is difficult at times to convince Crown attorneys or police to work in this way with "dysfunctional" families. "Sometimes, they want to keep them out of the community for a long time," commented one worker.
Evaluation has identified several factors that may undermine the success of a family intervention: working with older teens; a history of prior placements which has reinforced rejection issues and increased likelihood of delinquency; lack of family motivation for services; multiple and severe problems, especially psychiatric; substance abuse problems; larger families; high on child protection risk assessment; any history of chronic, long-term low parental and child functioning.
Director - Community Youth Services
Saskatchewan Social Services
1920 Broad Street
Tel. (306) 787-4702
Fax (306) 787-0925
Community Support Services - St. Lawrence Youth Association, Kingston, Ontario
Community Support Services - St. Lawrence Youth Association offers a family preservation approach for young offenders currently on probation and at risk of being placed out-of-home. As well, this organization works at family reintegration and reunification for those youth in secure or open custody. Since 1989, Community Support Services has provided intensive, short-term flexible support to 174 youths to prevent residential placements of high-risk 12 to 15-year-olds at the "front end" of the service delivery system and to assist high risk youth at the "back end" of the system in returning to the community.
A cost analysis indicated that for every $1.00 spent on Community Support Services, about $1.48 might have been saved in residential costs. These savings are likely understated as they do not reflect savings in other children's sectors and cannot account for the program's impact in preventing problems in siblings. Yet, Community Support Services, similar to other programs in the country, faces a fiscal crisis and a possible cessation of government funding.
As well, studies in Ontario point to an increasing reliance on custody with dramatic increases in committal rates in the past ten years; this is a troubling development when, according to an Ontario study, two-thirds of the 456 youths discharged from custody are involved again in the justice system via breaches and Criminal Code offences within six months.
Dr. Gary Bernfeld
St. Lawrence Youth Association
845 Division St.
Tel. (613) 542-9634
Fax (613) 542-5420
U.S. Family Preservation Programs
Numerous family-based programs have been implemented during the 1970s and 1980s, serving clients from child welfare, mental health, juvenile corrections and other service areas. Here are two examples.
The Simpsonville South Carolina Family Preservation Project
This "multi-systemic treatment" approach developed by Scott Henggeler has therapists work with only four families at a time, each over an average of four months. The youth and the family may be seen as often as once daily, usually in the home, with therapists also available on a 24-hour basis.
Research reported on the project included 84 violent and chronic juvenile offenders who were at risk for out-of-home placement. Results indicate that a year later, after family preservation programming, there were significant positive differences in incarceration, arrests and self-reported offences. Over two years following treatment, recidivism rates significantly favoured a multi-systemic treatment group over another group who relied on traditional services.
The cost of family preservation treatment averaged approximately $2,800 per client, as compared to the average cost of $17,769 for institutional placement in South Carolina.
The Family Ties Program - New York City
Modelled after the Homebuilders approach to family preservation in the child welfare system, this program has allowed judges to suspend a residential placement order for up to eight weeks. The needs of each child are identified and the family is assisted so that the youth may remain at home. Family Ties emphasizes the special needs of adolescents. Youths get help to resist peer pressure and manage their anger. Parent-child relationships and the role of authority are addressed. Youths must attend school and adhere to a curfew. Concrete services such as babysitting and helping with household chores are provided by Family Ties and help to ease pressures which lead to conflict. A recent independent evaluation indicated that probation was recommended at the end of the eight-week adjournment in 65 per cent of the cases, with continued exploration of placements in the rest. The city of New York and the state were estimated to save $2.7 million dollars in one year alone, about $3.00 in residential costs for every $1.00 spent on the program.
Family Ties Program
Department of Juvenile Justice
New York, N.Y. 10013
Tel. (212) 925-7779
Fax (212) 226-8545
6. Alternative Placement/Residential Programs
Several jurisdictions run a variation of residential placements in the community that provide a creative alternative for keeping youths in their home communities and out of more traditional facilities or institutions. Some offer specialized services for certain groups of offenders.
Opportunities for Independence - The Developmentally Disabled, Winnipeg, Manitoba
This story concerns a conviction for sexual assault on an 10-year-old girl for which the offender was facing the prospect of an 18-month prison sentence.
To ensure client confidentiality, Jim (an alias) is a hypothetical individual, as are the circumstances described. The composite situation described is drawn from years of actual experience and represents a very typical scenario.
As a child, Jim was removed from the family home at an early age as a result of breakdown in the family unit and suspected abuse. Jim resided in a variety of foster care placements and eventually was incarcerated at a youth correctional facility. Jim resided in this institutional placement until the age of 33 when he was discharged to the care of a surviving parent.
As an adult living in the community, Jim was unemployed and frequently involved in petty crime such as vandalism, petty thefts and fights while intoxicated. Jim's mother is unable to assist Jim and the relationship has deteriorated to where the mother wishes him to be taken from the home. The local police warn Jim when he becomes involved in petty incidents, and do not arrest him as he is "mentally handicapped" and there are difficulties in proceeding with charges. At the age of 36, Jim is arrested as a result of allegations of a sexual assault on a 10-year-old neighbourhood girl. He is seen by a psychiatrist while being held in custody and the resulting classification of dual diagnosis is reached. (Jim is functioning in the mental handicap range of intellectual functioning, and has been diagnosed as suffering from a mental illness.) Jim was found guilty of the offence and was required under an order of probation to parti-cipate in a treatment program. There were concerns that the possible 18-month sentence would have made Jim vulnerable within the prison and that he would not benefit from correctional treatment programs. It would likely make his situation worse. Jim was referred to Opportunities for Independence and accepted for assessment and treatment.
Jim resided under 24-hour supervision in Opportunities for Independence, Phase One Residential Care facility, where he lived with three other individuals of similar circumstances. Jim participated in a wide variety of life skills, vocational and recreational training programs, along with group and individual treatment. Through peer-based, problem-solving groups, and ongoing literacy and work skills upgrading, Jim found himself gaining a sense of accomplishment and control in his life. His feelings of rejection and abandonment were addressed in treatment along with the many distortions surrounding his offending. Over the two years Jim was assisted in finding employment, improving his relationship with his mother, addressing his deviant fantasy cycle and finding new friends. He developed a non-offending lifestyle through practising an "offending-control plan" consisting of access to key supporting people; sticking to safe environments, activities and people; and watching for the thoughts, feelings and actions that lead to a possible re-offence. After two years, Jim began a transition to a less restrictive environment in the community. He was introduced to a Community Support Worker in Opportunities for Independence Apartment Living Support Program. Over the next six months, he purchased the necessities for apartment living and located an apartment in an area away from schools and bars where he tended to have trouble.
With the assistance of ten hours a week of one-to-one support, Jim continued to develop independent living skills, while attending aftercare treatment groups once a month. Two years have passed and, despite a re-involvement for petty theft, Jim continues to reside in the community, working full-time and living in his own apartment now with five hours a week of ongoing support from his worker. To date, Jim has not re-offended sexually.
The overall cost in treatment and support of Client X was: approximately $40,423.75 per year for the two years in the Phase One Program; $7,280.00 per year for the ten hours per week of support for the two years in the Community Support Program; and $3,640. per year considered a long-term maintenance cost in supporting the individual as required through the Community Support Program.
The composite story above is a description of how Opportunities for Independence helps an individual. The project is dedicated to the development and delivery of community-based programs specifically geared towards developmentally disabled adults who are in conflict or at risk of conflict with the criminal justice system due to inappropriate behaviours. Its work promotes their rights to equal and appropriate membership in society while diverting them from correctional institutions ill-prepared to meet their specific needs.
Opportunities for Independence was founded in 1976 by a group of professionals who perceived a need for this work. It received approval from the Department of Family Services to begin operation of the first residential facility in Western Canada specifically designed to address the needs of this unique group.
To be accepted into the program, the client must be assessed as being learning-disabled; amenable to treatment; on probation, parole or presenting some risk; and suitable for community placement.
Opportunities for Independence
3rd floor - 26 Edmonton Street,
Tel. (204) 957-5118
Fax (204) 956-1671
Community Homes Program, Saskatchewan
The Community Homes Program in Saskatchewan offers an alternative placement to keep youth in their communities and out of more traditional facilities. Sentences are served in approximately 70 private homes that provide lodging, care and supervision and are designated as a place of open custody. Each home is approved for one or two youths who remain close to family, school and employment opportunities. In Saskatchewan, the natural family of the youth is involved wherever possible in case conferences, visitation and through temporary releases to visit home.
A court can send a youth directly to one of these families or they may be transferred from an open or secure custody facility. Youths in these homes may be there as part of a sentence, probation or voluntary placement, increasing the options for judges and service providers who do not want them at home and yet realize an institution is unnecessary. Many young people also do better in individual residences dealing with at most one other youth in the program rather than a group facility where there may be twelve.
The cost of a placement in one of Newfoundland's 30 community custody homes is approximately $800 a month compared to the almost $6,000 fixed cost per month for each bed in a group home. In Prince Edward Island, youths may reside for an average of two to six months in a foster home, supervised room and board, group foster home or with relatives.
Community Homes Program
Family and Youth Services Division
Saskatchewan Social Services
1920 Broad Street
Tel. (306) 787-3892
Division of Youth Corrections
Department of Social Services
P.O. Box 8700
St. John's, Newfoundland
Tel. (709) 729-2480
Fax (709) 729-0583
Co-ordinator, Community Custody Programs
Community and Correctional Services Division
Department of Justice and Attorney General
P.O. Box 2000
Tel. (902) 368-4582
Expansion-Femmes de Québec, Québec City, Québec
A woman was facing a prison term for having defrauded the Humane Society of $84,000. A court liaison worker for Expansion-Femmes introduced herself to her at the Court House and described in general terms that Expansion-Femmes was available for assistance. The woman was adamant that she had not taken that much money and indignant that the victim was exploiting the situation. At that point Expansion-Femmes' role was to simply support her through the court process. Some time later, the prosecutor initiated exploration of the involvement of Expansion-Femmes' residential services as well (as a possible alternative to demanding a jail term), because, although strong evidence existed for an amount of $25,000-$35,000, the rest would be very time-consuming to prove. A plea-bargaining process took place with the woman's defence lawyer. The woman admitted to responsibility for the whole amount and agreed to plead guilty, to be sentenced to probation with a condition to reside at Expansion-Femmes, where intensive case work was carried out with her and a plan followed to help her make some changes in her lifestyle, in collaboration with other community resources.
A woman was charged for having defrauded a local church committee of $76,000. She had been trying to help her father cover the debts of her brother who was seriously addicted to drugs. At the same time, her husband was dying of cancer. The pro-secutor suggested that she consult Expansion-Femmes. An alternative placement there was accepted.
Expansion-Femmes de Québec is a community residential centre for women that has been in operation since 1983. It proactively offers its services to the courts and to women in conflict with the law to provide an alternative residential placement for women so that they can remain in the community instead of being sentenced to a prison term.
A liaison worker closely monitors the cases of women before the courts that are likely to result in a request by the prosecutor for a prison sentence. Contact is established with the women themselves to provide support and make them aware of the resources available. Overtures are made repeatedly and persistently to the prosecutor even when there initially appears to be little interest or sensitivity to the possibility. Close contact is maintained with the defence to ensure that the client's best legal interests are being served in taking this initiative, in an attempt to minimize a net-widening effect (i.e. the risk that women who could avoid a conviction or prison sentence altogether will be needlessly subjected to a greater degree of coercion by the referral to this resource).
The agency considers that its central mandate is to offer services to prevent recidivism; supervision and control are the entry points that enable them to provide a framework within which this can happen.
>Expansion-Femmes de Québec
2189, Place des Colibris
Fax (418) 623-9559
Maison Thérèse-Casgrain, Montréal, Québec
A similar alternative to imprisonment is made available to women in Montréal by the Société Elizabeth Fry du Québec.
Examples have included a 50-year-old single mother who was employed at a salary level of $20,000 and who was convicted of defrauding welfare over a period of several years for a total of up to $80,000. By being sentenced directly to this residence she was able to avoid custody altogether and maintain all her social supports while compensating through community service work for the harm done to society by her crime.
Another woman who was given some access to this alternative was a 25-year-old addicted to drugs and alcohol who was also a single mother. She was living on welfare and her child was in foster care. She had a history of family violence, assaultive behaviour and a "borderline" psychiatric disability. She was convicted of seriously injuring her baby while under the influence and could have been facing a sentence of two years. She herself was worried about the seriousness of this loss of control and the terrible impact on her child. A plan was developed whereby she was sentenced to six months in prison, to be followed by one year at the halfway house and two years of close follow-up on probation. The jail term of six months appears to have been handed down strictly for its symbolic effect, as the plan was to release her after one month to reside at the halfway house.
"Over the years the thrust, fuelled by public opinion, has been to put all people convicted of any crime in jail and to throw away the keys so long as it did not affect a family member or a friend.
We, the judiciary, have quietly adopted that philosophy until all the jails are double-booked overcrowded to where we are at the revolving door concept whereby to let someone in we must let someone out with little thought to rehabilitation or the protection of the public.... The time is long passed when we should have been looking at alternatives. We are now in a crisis situation. We are moving not because it is a proper move, but because we must move."
Justice Hiram Carver, Supreme Court of Nova Scotia
The offences for which women have benefited from this alternative have included armed robbery, arson, shoplifting and fraud. Some are sentenced to be there only for very short periods or on weekends. The sentences are often combined with a community service order.
While this alternative has been available in Montréal for 17 years, its use to replace a sentence of imprisonment is only rarely accepted by prosecutors and judges.
Société Elizabeth Fry du Québec
5105 chemin de la Côté St-Antoine
Tél. (514) 489-2116
Fax (514) 489-2598
Residential Program for Adolescent Sexual Offenders, Ottawa, Ontario
In 1990, when the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa-Carleton operated 23 group residences, staff noticed an emerging problem related to young males who were exhibiting offensive sexual behaviour. As one director put it, these youths were "in the beginning stages of developing disturbing and dangerous lifetime patterns."
It was decided to open a unique residence exclusively for these individuals in order to develop an intensive treatment program and reduce the risk of revictimization of others living in those different homes. This community-based residential treatment program is designed to serve up to six youths between the ages of 12 and 17 who are at "low to medium risk of sexually re-offending". For three years now, the residence has been designated as an open-custody facility and accepts referrals from probation. Youth stay an average of one year.
The primary goals of the program are for the youths to gain an understanding of their sexual behaviour, to develop appropriate controls and to enhance their capacity to care for others. The residential aspect of the program aids in confronting denial, mini-mizes avoidance of treatment and allows the response to treatment to be broadly evaluated.
Because many adolescent sexual offenders exhibit a wide range of other problems, the program does not look at the youth's sexual behaviour in isolation. These youths often have trouble in forming relationships and so are helped in dealing with issues related to control, dominance, respect for others, empathy, mutuality and caring.
The program has a clinical rather than a legal perspective. As a result, staff notice conflicting demands placed on a youth and family when charges are pending and a defence lawyer may advise them to remain silent and acknowledge no responsibility. "It becomes a case of getting at the truth which is not what an adversarial system like the courts always does," a program staff commented. "We have turned that around and ask everyone what is in the best, long-term interests for the kid."
Mr. Bob Sauer
The Children's Aid Society of Ottawa-Carleton
1602 Telesat Court
Tel. (613) 748-0670
Fax (613) 747-4456
Maple Star Foster Care, Colorado
This story concerns the placement in family-based foster care in the community of a 15-year-old young woman with convictions of attempted murder, assault on the elderly and robbery.
The referral on this case came from a very experienced county caseworker on May 1, 1995. Maple Star was one of twelve agencies contacted for placement of a 15-year-old mixed race female. After spending eight months in the local Criminal Justice Center, the youth was moved to a juvenile detention center where she had been for the past three weeks pending placement in a foster home, group home, or residential child care facility.
The youth had been charged as an adult with felony convictions of attempted murder, assault on the elderly, and robbery. Eleven of the agencies referred to turned the case away because of the seriousness of the charges. A Maple Star social worker agreed to interview the youth along with the caseworker to see if an appropriate foster home could be located within the agency.
During the interview the youth indicated that she felt she had paid her debt to society and wanted to get on with her life. Her goals were to return to school, graduate in two years and attend college. She also expressed her desire to go back and live with her mother but understood that the court had ordered out-of-home placement because neither parent was viewed as adequate nor wanted to accept responsibility for her. She also did not view her crime as a serious offence and that is probably why other agencies were not willing to place her.
The youth was placed in a Maple Star foster home May 10, 1995 under house arrest. The plan was to provide as much supervision as possible within a home atmosphere. The youth could get a job after she proved to be responsible in the home.
The service team, headed by the foster parents, did some creative planning. The school district denied admission to the youth based on a Colorado law that schools do not have to accept convicted felons or habitual youth offenders into the school system. The foster parents advocated for the youth to attend the local high school. After interviewing the youth and the foster parents, the school counsellor became very supportive and agreed to assist the foster parents in developing a home school program for the youth. The school has agreed to accept the credits earned through the home school program. The youth will be evaluated at the end of this school year and if she is doing well, she will be admitted into school as a senior this fall. To date, it looks as though she will be attending the local high school in August.
This youth will be on adult probation for the next four and a half years. She is an example of what society can do if we are creative enough and committed to helping people make changes in their lives.
Maple Star manages treatment foster family care programs in Colorado and Nevada. High-risk youths in conflict with the law are among Maple Star's client population. One or two youths live with each family. They may come to Maple Star on a probation order or while charges are pending, with the program advocating on their behalf.
Specialist or treatment foster family care strives to stabilize youth within supportive families and communities. Some studies indicate that family-based foster care is a responsible and cost-effective alternative to institutional placement; delinquent youth in family-based foster care exhibited improved behaviour and were less likely to recidivate than those in a more restrictive setting.
Each family care program is based on significant principles:
- service teams- they are responsible for developing and monitoring plans for each person in care;
- normalization - plans are directed towards creating an environment in which the person in care may live as normally as possible and develop new skills;
- community support networks - activities develop and strengthen networks of community support;
- reducing stigma - labelling or stigmatizing the individual is avoided along with efforts to reduce the harmful effects of past stigmatization;
- inclusive care - there are attempts to bring about the inclusion of family members, including birth parents as active program participants.
Maple Star Associates
P.O. Box 306
Lake George, Co. 80827
Tel. (719) 748-3928, 748-3981
Fax (719) 748-3942
Pennsylvania Auditor General Reveals Financial Impact of Prison Crowding
Despite a prison expansion that cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $760 million, Pennsylvania Auditor General Barbara Hafer said that "we simply can't build prisons fast enough to alleviate the chronic problem of prison overcrowding."
Citing projections that PA's prison population will reach 33,000 by the year 2000, Hafer suggested that although it will have added eight new prisons in five years, the state prison system will still be 41 percent over capacity.
To reduce a correctional budget which she estimates will reach $1 billion by the year 2000, Hafer suggested implementing a wide variety of alternative sanctions, specifically developing less expensive sentencing programs for non-violent offenders. This way, she said, additional resources could be allocated both for violent, dangerous, and persistent offenders and for crime prevention programs.
[end of article]
Youth Futures Residential and Day Attendance Program, Lower Fraser Valley, British Columbia
The Youth Futures Residential and Day Attendance Program is a sentencing option for youth who require more than probation supervision but do not need incarceration.
The 16-week program, located in the Lower Fraser Valley, engages both youths and their families, with most youths continuing to reside in their homes or in approved alternate residences while attending day school, evening and weekend programs. Families are strengthened through the provision of practical home support and they are invited to be partners with the program in working with their child. There is a high degree of direct, structured individual supervision and monitoring of youths; in most cases, a curfew is enforced by telephone or in person.
During the first few weeks, youths are observed in their own families, staff noting strengths and weaknesses (rules, routines, forms of relocation) and past experiences with school and the community. Then, for a period of two to four weeks, the youths are placed in a pre-selected "host family", staff exposing the youths to a healthy family environment and further observing them in a neutral site. An individualized program is then designed covering the entire four-month participation; workers meet once a week with youths and families to review the schedule for the next seven days.
This program, according to an information pamphlet, is geared mainly to "youths who may be one step away from jail. These are youths who do not have severely disturbed behaviour but may have poorly developed social skills and problems such as minor substance abuse, behavioral acting out or attention deficits. These problems are often exacerbated by family dysfunction, educational breakdown, weak community linkages and negative peer relationships." Youth Futures indicated that youths not appropriate for the program include violent offenders, sex offenders and those with severe substance abuse problems.
Youth Futures is based on the premise that when positive changes take place in experience and environment, a youth begins to shed the negative behaviour that led to criminal and antisocial behaviour. The approach minimizes intervention and dislocation of the youths from their own communities while integrating supervision and support.
The day school devotes four of its five days a week to computer-assisted learning activities developed by the Centre for Educational Technology at Simon Fraser University. The evening program, offered three times a week, emphasizes emotional, social and technical skills such as public speaking, self marketing, anger management and negotiation skills. Several weekends a month, youths enjoy a wide range of recreational and cultural pursuits.
Youth Futures Program
Bob Kissner, Executive Director
P.O. Box 3444
Tel. (604) 532-1268
Fax (604) 532-1269
El'dad Ranch for Mentally Handicapped Adult Men, Steinbach, Manitoba
This story concerns the alternative placement of a mentally handicapped man who had already served previous prison sentences.
"For youth who might otherwise receive custody, there's a need for a wider variety of options to be available to judges offering more effective supervision and intervention than the traditional caseload of a youth or probation worker permits."
Justice Minister Allan Rock, Nov. 20, 1995
"My life was pretty rough. So far I have been to six foster homes. In one home I was always beaten. Whenever I moved I didn't really trust my foster parents. I feel afraid of them. I always thought I was going to be beaten. I got in trouble when I was 18 years old. I started drugs and alcohol when I was 19. I finally ended up in jail. When I came to El'dad it was a new experience. I thought it was going to be a hell hole. After awhile, I was beginning to learn more things and people really care for me, but, the most cre-dit I have to give is to staff members. They always helped me when I feel depressed. I hope my stay here will help me to live a better life and to have a good job and to be a more loveable person...."
El'dad Ranch is a residential treatment center near Steinbach for borderline mentally handicapped adult men in conflict with the law. Individuals charged or already in court are approached to consider this alternative to incarceration. Residents stay an average of two years.
El'dad, an agency of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) of Manitoba, provides life skills instruction as well as counselling in the areas of employment, budgeting and personal development. There is a heavy emphasis on working, including the woodlot, gardening, assembling honey bee frames and yard maintenance.
Among El'dad's objectives are to provide addiction counselling and supervision as well as residential services in harmony with a Christian home environment. El'dad is licensed by Community Services to provide living quarters for six residents and it receives funding from the province of Manitoba and MCC Manitoba.
Brendan or Jewel Reimer
Directors - El'dad Ranch
Box 9, Grp. 3, R.R. 1
Tel. (204) 326-1050
7. Bail Option Programs and Administrative Sanctions
Many offenders do not have the money to pay for bail and therefore end up spending the time awaiting their trial in prison, in effect being punished before they are tried. Research has shown this can also increase their likelihood of being convicted and sentenced to further time in prison.
Bail option programs allow for the release of the offender into the community under responsible supervision. Fine option programs allow for administrative and other alternatives to serving time in prison because of the inability to pay for a fine.
Judicial Interim Release for Youth, Saskatchewan
Youths who have been arrested but not yet convicted or sentenced may avoid spending that interval time in custody by getting a judicial interim release into the community under intensive supervision. This is a short-term alleviation of the enforcement of imprisonment although studies have also shown it can impact favourably on the eventual sentence.
A 16-year-old was arrested and charged with assault causing bodily harm and breach of probation. This youth is already currently involved in the youth justice system, having been sentenced in the summer of 1995 on other charges and assigned and supervised by a youth worker from the Department of Social Services. After his current arrest, the youth was detained in a remand facility to appear before the court the following morning. At the court appearance, the Crown opposed the youth's release and a request was sent by the Youth Court to explore the possibility of a judicial interim release. The investigation included interviews with the youth and support persons as well as a review of official data. The youth resides with a legal guardian with whom the father has a relationship. The youth does not have contact with his mother. The youth was released once before on judicial interim release in December 1995 and successfully completed it. The youth at this time is suspended from Cochrane Collegiate due to his "negative attitude, defiance, belligerence and vulgarity" but will be readmitted following a two-week residency in an alcohol and drug facility. The principal stated that the youth had been performing well in the Intensive Classroom Experience program prior to the suspension. The youth has agreed to follow the directions of his legal guardian and father if released and the legal guardian is willing to have the youth back in her home and provide the necessary supervision and direction for the youth to do well. The judicial interim release was granted provided that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour, maintain his residence, have a 9:00 p.m curfew, participate in educational, vocational and/or recreational programs, not communicate with certain persons, abstain from alcohol and drugs, and follow instructions of the worker in obtaining alcohol and drug treatment.
By allowing the youth to remain in the community while awaiting the outcome of a case, the opportunity is provided for the youth to prove he or she can behave in a responsible way in the community. The hope is that the youth can continue daily activities with little disruption and discuss with family what may be causing the offending behaviour and how to stay out of any further conflict with the law.
The judge bases this decision primarily on whether the youth will return to Court and whether there is a risk to the community. Helping the judge is a recommendation from a judicial interim release worker who investigates the youth's history of involvement with the law, current personal and family situation, the availability of an appropriate residence, involvement with drugs, alcohol or other substances and whether there is a responsible adult able and willing to supervise. A youth who is released must agree to keep the peace, be on good behaviour, return to court when required to do so and follow other conditions.
Saskatchewan Social Services
1920 Broad St. - 12th Floor
Tel. (306) 787 1394
Fax (306) 787-0925
Ma Ma Wi Wi Chi Itata Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba
The Ma Ma Wi Wi Chi Itata Centre provided judicial interim releases for aboriginal youths through contracting with Community and Youth Corrections of Manitoba. This program of the centre is no longer running due to lack of funding. The judicial interim release worked in much the same way as the Saskatchewan program cited earlier. Statistics showed that those on judicial interim release compared to others being held in custody on remand tended to be less likely to receive a custodial sentence after their trial.
In addition to judicial interim release (bail option) programs, the centre provided legal aid, temporary absence and intensive probation supervision. The latter supervision is geared specifically to high risk native youth who would otherwise get a custodial sentence. It is intended to reduce recidivism, particularly because the programming and supervision involved are culturally sensitive. This Centre also conducted family group conferences for the youths. Many community-based initiatives like Ma Ma Wi Wi Chi Itata could use the money now being spent to warehouse individuals in our prisons.
Ma Ma Wi Wi Chi Itata Centre
305 - 338 Broadway
Tel. (204) 925-0300
Fax (204) 946-5042
Fine Option Program, Yukon Territory
Court-administered fines always come with a default term of incarceration related to the amount of time to be served if the fine is not paid. For many individuals this results in a jail sentence for a minor offence that would never have warranted jail time in the first place. Fine option allows them to "work off" their fine by doing volunteer work in the community for a non-profit agency.
The Fine Option Program is administered through the Community Correctional Service and provides offenders with the opportunity to perform community service work in lieu of, or in addition to, the payment of fines. This type of initiative was started because of the fact that so many people were serving short jail terms because they did not pay their fines, for a number of reasons. Thirty-five percent of admissions into Canadian provincial institutions in 1992-93 were for fine default. Participants enter into an agreement which specifies work placement at a charitable or non-profit organization and the number of hours of work service required to satisfy the fine. Since the program began, less than one per cent of those who received fines have served default jail time, and those that have have usually done so because they are already doing jail time for some other offence. In theory, an offender could still choose to do the jail term rather than pay the fine or do community service work but that has not happened. If an offender fails to complete the fine option program or pay the fine, they can also be subject to administrative sanctions, described in the next program.
"It has come to the place that to jail someone for non-payment of a fine has been a joke, as when they are arrested and taken to jail, they are sent home. Worse of all worlds is that this news travels fast and you have people showing up and wanting to turn themselves in as they know there is no possibility they will be asked to serve out the time or at least all of it."
Justice Hiram Carver, Supreme Court of Nova Scotia
Director of Community and Correctional Services
Coordinator, Community Custody Programs
Tel. (403) 667-8293
Fax (403) 667-6826
Prince Edward Island runs a fine option program similar to that in the Yukon.
Provincial Advisor - Criminal Justice and Corrections
Health and Community Services Agency
4 Sydney St.,
P.O. Box 2000
Tel. (902) 368-6619
Fax (902) 368-6136
Administrative Sanctions, Yukon Territory
On October 1, 1995 administrative sanctions came into effect against drivers or vehicle owners who owe money for unpaid fines imposed under the Motor Vehicles Act or the Highways Act. Drivers could be refused when they tried to renew their licence or motor vehicle registration. They could even have their licence suspended.
During the previous summer, media advertisements and an information campaign encouraged defaulters to pay their court fines before October 1 when the sanctions were implemented. Over 6,000 letters and statements of unpaid motor vehicle fines were mailed to defaulters. As of August 1, 1995, there was approximately $530,000 in outstanding fines due to motor vehicle and highways act violations. By October, that amount was reduced by approximately $130,000.
Director of Community and Correctional Services
Tel. (403) 667-8293
Fax (403) 667-6826
In the context of a major policy shift away from the use of incarceration, Quebec is also planning to introduce wide-scale use of administrative sanctions.
Maître Paul Monty
Substitut en chef et Directeur des affaires criminelles
Ministère de la Justice du Québec
1200 route de l'Église
Tél. (418) 643-9059
Fax (418) 646-5412
8. Client Specific Planning
Client Specific Planning is more an alternative process than an alternative sentence and therefore we thought it appropriate to refer to it at the end of this section of the compendium which highlights initiatives "that attempt to avoid the use of custody, with or without some reparative elements".
The premise for this approach is summarized in a Solicitor General of Canada report written by Matthew Yeager: "The starting point for Client Specific Planning is the question: Do any means exist to manage/punish this Defendant so that society is not assuming too great a risk? This is at variance with the vast majority of dispositions in North America, which use incarceration as the reference point from which offenders and their crimes are evaluated for sanctioning. In effect, each case begins with the assumption - not always true, however - that some form of suspended sentence/probation order can be granted".
Client specific planning has been used to close juvenile training schools, as well as at the sentencing stage for both juveniles and adults, during pre-trial negotiations prior to the entry of a guilty plea and at parole. Yeager notes "theoretically, the CSP model can also be used to de-populate adult prisons."
As with other justice initiatives, there is the danger of net-widening in client specific planning; plans recommending alternatives to incarceration can indeed be added to a custodial sentence. This tendency can be overcome through ensuring both targeting an institution for closure or restricting intake for client specific planning to serious offenders who demonstrate a high probability of being imprisoned.
We conclude this section with a few examples of client specific planning projects.
Sentencing Advocacy Services: U.S. National Centre on Institutions and Alternatives
Often, client specific planning is a form of sentencing advocacy that has focused on the role of the defence attorney in creating alternatives to incarceration. Dr. Jerome Miller, who closed the Massachusetts Reform School system, coined the phrase. In 1979, the U.S. National Centre on Institutions and Alternatives which he helped open started a project to provide sentencing advocacy services to defence lawyers, through the creation of alternative sentencing plans tailored to the background and criminal record of the offender.
"Every dollar attached to an inmate should follow that inmate into the community for at least as long as he or she would have been institutionalized."
Jerome Miller, National Centre on Institutions and Alternatives
Client Specific Planning - North Carolina
Programs emphasize case selection to assure that defendants who receive services are truly prison-bound. A risk assessment scale scoring sheet, developed by the University of North Carolina's Institute of Government, is used to suggest the potential of imprisonment for a given set of offence and offender characteristics. Defence attorney and case development judgments are also used to modify these assessments.
Client Specific Planning - New Mexico
New Mexico has committed funds for a state-wide alternative sentencing program. One or two case workers or social workers staff each participating public defender office. Attorneys are encouraged to refer felony cases to sentencing staff early in the court process if they believe a prison sentence is likely.
Sentencing plans emphasize an appropriate combination of drug or alcohol treatment, offender supervision, rehabilitative services, and community or victim restitution.
The Sentencing Project
1156 15th St. NW
Washington, DC 20005
Tel. (202) 463-8348
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