Correctional Investigator of Canada and Ontario Child Advocate Release Joint Report on the Experience of Young Adult Offenders in Federal Custody

For Immediate Release

Ottawa and Toronto, October 3, 2017 – Today, the Correctional Investigator of Canada, Dr. Ivan Zinger, and the Ontario Child Advocate, Mr. Irwin Elman, released a joint report entitled Missed Opportunities: The Experience of Young Adults Incarcerated in Federal Penitentiaries.  The report highlights the trajectories of young people in conflict with the law and their experience when they “graduate” from provincial youth to federal adult custody.  The report makes it clear that younger adult offenders (ages 18 to 21) have distinct needs that are not recognized or met by the Correctional Service of Canada.   

In commenting on the key findings and implications for federal corrections, Dr. Zinger stated: “Younger people in federal adult custody have limited life experiences.  They are more vulnerable to exploitation, intimidation and abuse behind bars and are over-represented in admissions to segregation and in use-of-force incidents.”  He added that, “Programs and services offered in federal penitentiaries are not tailored or adapted to meet their needs.  Our investigation concludes that the Correctional Service of Canada is squandering the opportunity to help turn a young person’s life around.” 

The Ontario Child Advocate stated: “Young people who find themselves in adult custody should have, and be given, the opportunity to positively change the direction of their lives. As we stated at the inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, the adult correctional system is not equipped to ensure this happens.” In addition, Elman said, “It is clear that our service systems designed to assist our children to achieve their full potential must do a better job of preventing young people – especially Black and Indigenous youth who are disproportionately over-represented in the system – from ever entering and living in adult custody."

The report is the product of a collaborative and innovative partnership between the offices of the Correctional Investigator and the Ontario Child Advocate.  Working in partnership is especially important in corrections where sentenced individuals can be left behind or forgotten in the layers and levels of government or when they transition from one system to another.  Reaching the age of 18 is not indicative of full physical or psychosocial development, yet is still the point at which the legal system designates full culpability and criminal responsibility as an adult.         

The report makes 20 recommendations.  One recommendation was issued by the Ontario Child Advocate and another was jointly supported by both Offices.  Key recommendations for federal corrections include:

  1. Presumptive prohibition on the use of segregation for young adults under the age of 21 to be incorporated in law.
  2. Youth counselling training for institutional and community parole officers who have a special interest or aptitude for working with younger adult offenders.
  3. Development of policy direction to meet the specific needs and interests of young adult offenders.  

The report and backgrounder cited in this release are available at www.oci-bec.gc.ca or www.provincialadvocate.on.ca.

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For more information, please contact:

Office of the Correctional Investigator
Marie-France Kingsley
A/Executive Director
(613) 990-2690
Marie-France.Kingsley@oci-bec.gc.ca
Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
Akihiko Tse
Communications Coordinator
(416) 325-5994
akihiko.tse@provincialadvocate.on.ca