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The Young Offender’s Act: The Past, Present, and F

utureShaun Babakhanians 05/13/98
Youth crime is a growing epidemic that affects most teenagers at one point of their
life. They’ll get in trouble with the law and their parents will find out of their mischief.
Their crime may lead to many others as they get older because they will be treated harshly
in the adult system. Thanks to acts like the Young Offenders Act, we give kids second
chances at becoming better citizens and thus, getting back on the right foot and leading the
rest of their lives happily. Some kids are bound to become chronic lawbreakers, but the
Young Offenders Act isn’t to blame for that. The Young Offenders Act is just meant to
give the kids who make an error, a second chance. Everybody deserves a second chance.
In the essay, facts and opinions will be stated on the main topic of lowering the Young
Offenders Act age limit to a minimum of ten years of age and to a maximum of eighteen
years old. This is a topic under constant scrutinization and deserves to be debated over.
The Justice Minister Anne McLellan quoted the following passage about her plans with
the Young Offenders Act: “We must send a signal today to all Canadians that there is
going to be a new youth justice regime in place.”
The Juvenile Delinquent’s Act was the predecessor of the Young Offenders Act. It
was adopted in 1908 by the federal government. Its purpose was to change the old system
of trying children as adults and holding them over for as long as the crown wanted to.
They then decided to treat the children as “misguided” ones, instead of criminals.
Although good intentions were meant in the act, there were extremely few guidelines and
the kids were given a variety of punishments for one offense. There was little fairness in
the end and they ended up being treated like adults.
During the 1960’s, the child-saving movement began and there was a constant
demand for the Juvenile Delinquent’s Act to be reformed. People were complaining of too
much unfairness, corrupt judges, and poor sentencing techniques. The House of
Commons took it into their own hands and decided to debate over the topic of a new
amendment for the Juvenile Delinquent’s Act. For almost two decades, the debating was
furious but on April 2nd, 1984, the Young Offenders Act was passed as an official act.
The Young Offenders Act was more specific, fairer, and easier to understand than
the Juvenile Delinquent’s Act. The main ideas of the Young Offenders Act are: offenders
should be held responsible for their actions, they must not be allowed to get away with any
crime of their choice, they should also be punished according to their age and more
importantly, their maturity. The kids will be evaluated if it is too difficult to determine
their maturity. Canadian society reserves the right to be protected from young offenders
and vice versa. The young offenders may be sent to a juvenile detention facility if there
needs to be one. People have to remember that children’s needs are special. They have
not yet developed maturely as adults so their judgement levels can be from slightly to
extremely lower. The children also have the same rights as adults do. They reserve the
right to remain silent, the right to habeus corpus, and the right to not be arbitrarily

The most debated part of the Young Offenders Act is the age range. In order to
be covered under the Young Offenders Act, you must be over twelve years of age and you
must be under the age of eighteen. Also, one of the most important aspects of the Young
Offenders Act is that it only covers federal offenses under criminal code. All other
offenses are carried out in a provincial youth court. That is a good thing about the Young
Offenders Act, all offenses are dealt with in youth court and not adult court.

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There is much controversy over youths being sent to adult court for their punishments.
They would get tried too harshly and wouldn’t get treated fairly. They would end up
getting sent to adult prisons were they could be sexually assaulted, beaten up, or could
possibly get killed. They now get sent to a juvenile detention facility that is a friendlier
environment where the kids also get an education.
There are many benefits to the Young Offenders Act, which help the youths as
well. To prevent from getting mistaken, getting in trouble with the law and getting out is
not a free lunch. The benefits are more for the privacy and security of the young offender.
As did the Juvenile Delinquent’s Act try and do, it will allow misguided, or erred youths a
second chance to rehabilitate themselves. Like any fair person would agree, everybody
deserves a second chance, even for the most vicious crime, that’s why there are paroles
which give early release for good behavior. Also, your criminal record as an offender and
citizen gets wiped out only in five years if you do not break the law again. Your name
cannot be printed in the newspaper for your public privacy. You also have the same right
to appeal in court if you believe you have not been treated fairly or have found new

As with any new issue, there will always be speculation about it. Since we live in a
democratic environment, there will always be somebody disagreeing with it. On Tuesday,
May 4th, there was an article in the Winnipeg Free Press about a woman in Regina,
Saskatchewan that had a petition of 70,000 signatures to abolish the Young Offenders
Act. She even said that she had “sent similar ones like that but they’ve all received a deaf
ear”. What can be so wrong about the act which would cause such a popular decision to
abolish it. One of the biggest issues and one that the writer will be focusing on is the age
of the offenders. As of now, you must be at least twelve years old and must be under the
age of eighteen. Some people want it to include tens and eleven year olds. Some want to
leave it as is, but get rid of the sixteen and seventeen year olds and let them fight in the
adult system. Do you remember when you were sixteen? How fragile were you? Did you
think that you could, if faced with the situation, be put up against the adult world and be
sentenced like one? Probably not, but if you take the logistics and technicalities, you
become an adult when you turn eighteen years old. Yet, why do many people try and say
that sixteen and seventeen-year-olds should be treated like adults when it comes to the
traumatizing experience of an adult court. You will be stuck in a jail with serial killers,
arsonists, sex offenders, the true scourges of society, the blackspots on the linen dress.
Does a young adult deserve this? Anyone can sit on their couch or seat and say “twenty
years in jail” this or “life without parole” that. The only way to make people understand
how long of a sentence that would be is to put everybody in jail for six months and see
what it’s like. But in reality, no such thing will ever happen. The only way is to go into
the decisions open-mindedly. You simply cannot sentence sixteen and seventeen year olds
into the adult legal system. They can commit the heinous crimes of adults but they can’t
fully understand what they’re doing. They can’t understand the severity of its impact on
society. Graffiti artists “tag” trains. “Tagging” is when “graffiti artists” put their signature
on a train car when the train is stopped. If you ever see a train close up, you will see that
there are big squares of paint covering up graffiti. They believe that it’s just them doing it,
nobody else is so why should it hurt anyone. Anyone with enough reasoning can see that
it will cost money to repaint trains and it affects the companies immensely. It shows that
the offenders aren’t mature enough to understand, therefore they should be rehabilitated
and then released into society with a clean head on their shoulders.

An issue that the writer would like to heavily debate is the inclusion of ten and
eleven year olds in the Young Offenders Act. You might say that the writer is being a
hypocrite after stating facts about “vulnerable” older teenagers. The major difference is
that those offenders are stuck between the adult legal system and coverage under the
Young Offenders Act. The ten and eleven year olds are between the Young Offenders
Act and nothing. Now the questions arise, what do we do with these kids. The writer
says we should put them in the Act, evaluate them, then give them a second chance at
getting set straight. The good thing is, at that age, it is easy to influence them into doing
something. If they get influenced into, for example, breaking twelve windows in a
brand-new building, they should get punished so they know not to fall to the pressure.
The rehabilitation can then re-influence them into believing that illegal activity is bad. It is
a form of brainwashing but it will end up being good for society in the long run. Nobody
wants kids running around thinking they are invincible. One eleven year old punk will say
that he stole a thousand dollars worth of diamonds from a store to his little friends and
then they will start doing the same because they saw their friend not get into trouble when
he did that. If that boy was punished, he wouldn’t dare advise his friends into getting into
mischief. The system does work and can teach kids to calm down. A driver education
was stating this to prevent his students from thinking you’re invincible.

“These two kids ran a red light, so the cops pull them over and attempt to fine them. One
of the boys said “You can’t touch me” and so on and eventually worked his way into
telling the cop of what he thinks of him. So the kid starts swearing and the officer slaps
the cuffs on him and throws him in the back. The kid still treated the whole thing as a joke
through court and the judge decided to not allow him to get his license until he was
eighteen, start off with ten demerits, and be on five years probation. The boy was
fourteen years old.”
Ken Braschuck
Another good example of twisted beliefs was an incident which happened on May 3, 1996,
when an eleven year old boy raped a 13 year old girl. It’s not so much the seriousness of
the crime, it’s what the boy said after the cops came. “You can’t do anything to me
because I’m underage!” That was one of the most shocking things I’ve heard in my life.
How can a society mold kids into believing that they can get away with anything. It’s
because we allow ourselves to fall victim to our own ideals. We believe that kids aren’t
capable of committing the crimes but we’re only fooling ourselves. Action must be done,
or if there are rules, they’ll break them. Include the kids in the act, take care of them, set
them straight, and let them enjoy the rest of their lives. We can’t let them develop a
confidence in rule breaking or else there will be an endless struggle in the future for the
position of authority. It may sound apocalyptic but it’s true and is possible.
There are lots of things that can happen to the Young Offenders Act. Over time, it
can re-develop again into the Juvenile Delinquent’s Act or something similar to it. In
order for us to prevent that from happening, we must continue with our development of
succeeding in rehabilitating “misguided” children. Over the past years, there have been
many new additions to the act, one of the most major ones was almost or doubling young
killers sentences. Doesn’t it seem more and more that sixteen and seventeen year olds are
going to the predetermined point of adult justice. If you think negatively, you can say that
they will end up in the adult system, but even if you think optimistically, the best they’ll get
is many more years of harshness and indecision in the Act. The writer thinks the best that
will happen with this act is for it to include the ten and eleven year olds. The best way
thing to stop something from happening is to start young. If we can even save one child
from falling into the hands of the evil of society, then this entire debate over issues would
be worth it. Save the children!
1.Tustin, Lee. Caught In The Act: A user’s guide to the Youth Justice System and
the Young Offenders Act. Don Mills: Addison-Wesley Publishers, 1994
2.Corrado, Raymond R., LeBlanc, Marc, and Trepanier, Jean. Current Issues in
Juvenile Justice. Toronto: Butterworths, 1983
3.”Underage rapist gets off.” Winnipeg Free Press, 3rd May 1996, A3
4.Smith, Carl F., McDevitt, Daniel J., and Scully, Angus L. Canada Today.

Scarborough: Prentice Hall Canada Ltd, 1996
5.Common Knowledge


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