McGuinty Government Expands Youth Justice Committees Province-Wide



    Successful Program Helps Youth And Improves Community Safety

    ST. MARYS, ON, Sept. 4 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government is expanding the
Youth Justice Committee program to eight new communities, ensuring that all
54 court jurisdictions across Ontario can deal more effectively with young
people in trouble with the law, Attorney General Michael Bryant announced
today.
    "Youth Justice Committees work," said Bryant. "They strike the right
balance between accountability and community intervention. They hold young
people accountable for their actions, but also get them off a path toward
serious crime."
    The program is an alternative to prosecuting young people who have
committed first time offences such as mischief, theft or minor assaults. It
brings together teens aged 12 to 17, their parents, victims and trained
members of the community to work out an appropriate way for the young person
to make amends, such as community service, restitution or a personal apology
to the victim.
    "Stratford's Youth Justice Committee will help hold young people
accountable for their actions, help get them off the path toward serious crime
and encourage them to become contributing members of society," said
Perth-Middlesex MPP John Wilkinson. "The program also gives local residents a
role in improving community safety in the Stratford area."
    To date the program has been tremendously successful. More than 80 per
cent of the young people involved in the program had no further contact with
the justice system after one year.
    Youth Justice Committees were first established in 1999 in six locations
in Ontario, and expanded in 2001 and 2004, and then doubled in 2006. Now, due
to its success, the program has been expanded to Stratford, Goderich, Picton,
Napanee, Gore Bay, Parry Sound, Cochrane and Dryden.
    "Youth Justice Committees are a meaningful way to involve victims of
crime and provide an opportunity for communities to be involved in helping
keep their neighbourhoods safe," said Alice Lewis, Director of Community
Services, St. Leonard's Society of London. "They hold young people accountable
for their behaviour, keep them out of the court system and the path to
custody, and provide them the opportunity to become more productive members of
society."
    This is just one more example of how, working together, Ontarians are
improving community safety. Other initiatives include:

    
    -   Launching the Youth Challenge Fund with chair Mike "Pinball" Clemons,
        providing $15 million for community-led programs in the Greater
        Toronto Area, and $3 million to support community-designed programs
        led by faith-based groups offering youth positive alternatives to
        violence
    -   Pioneering a $26-million state-of-the-art Operations Centre providing
        for highly coordinated investigations and prosecutions of gun and
        gang-related offences
    -   Opening the province's first major crimes court at 361 University
        Avenue in Toronto. A second major crimes court is currently under
        construction at the 2201 Finch Avenue West Courthouse in Toronto and
        it's expected to open this fall.

    Disponible en français

                      www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca


    Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

                  ONTARIO'S YOUTH JUSTICE COMMITTEE PROGRAM
    

    The McGuinty government is expanding the Youth Justice Committee program
to help keep Ontario communities strong and safe. Youth Justice Committees are
part of an innovative and comprehensive approach to holding youth in trouble
with the law accountable for their actions, keeping young people out of the
court system and out of custody, and helping to set them on a more productive
path.

    Community Role in Public Safety

    The Youth Justice Committee program is an alternative to formal court
proceedings and it provides an opportunity for communities to play an
important role in improving public safety. The committees are made up of
community volunteers, the young person in trouble with the law, his or her
parents and the victim, if they want to participate. Together, they work out
an appropriate way for the youth to make amends for his or her actions. A
local steering committee, chaired by the local Crown attorney, and including
police, victim services, probation, Legal Aid Ontario and defence lawyers,
oversees the program.
    The McGuinty government has increased annual funding this year from
$60,000 to $70,000 for community agencies to support the Youth Justice
Committee programs. Agencies must apply annually for funding after being
selected by the local steering committee.

    Holding Youth Accountable

    Police may refer a youth to a committee before a charge is laid, or the
Crown may refer a youth after a charge is laid. In order for a young person in
trouble with the law to be referred to the committee, he or she must be
prepared to be accountable for his or her actions, be willing to participate
in the program and be aware of his or her rights and options. Only lower-risk
offences like mischief, theft and minor assaults can be referred to
committees. Offenders who do not agree, or comply with the sanctions, may be
returned to the formal justice system.

    Youth Justice Committee Sites

    Youth Justice Committees were first established in 1999 in six locations
in Ontario, and expanded in 2001 and 2004, and then doubled in 2006. The
creation of these eight additional committees brings the current number across
the province to 54 and includes at least one committee in every court
district. The new sites are in Goderich, Stratford, Picton, Napanee, Gore Bay,
Parry Sound, Cochrane and Dryden.
    There are currently committees in Cornwall, Scarborough, Barrie, Port
Colborne, Kitchener, Belleville, Brockville, Cobourg, Hamilton,
Huntsville/Muskoka, Newmarket (York Region), Windsor, Whitby, Haliburton,
Walkerton, Owen Sound, Armstrong, Nipigon, Fort Frances, Marathon, the Region
of Peel, Jane/Finch/Etobicoke, Ottawa, Elgin County, Guelph, Lambton County,
London, Chatham/Kent, Oxford County, Brantford, Caledon/Dufferin,
Haldimand/Norfolk, Halton Region, Lindsay, Peterborough, Kingston, L'Orignal,
Pembroke/Petawawa, Perth, Haileybury, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury,
Timmins/Moosonee/Moose Factory, Kenora and Thunder Bay.

    
    Disponible en français

                      www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca
    




For further information:

For further information: Brendan Crawley, Ministry of the Attorney
General, Communications Branch, (416) 326-2210

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