In today’s society the sociological perspective on youth crime is that youth are more dangerous and disrespectful now than they were in the past (Schissel, 2010). This perspective is incorrect because many factors play a part in the increasing crime rates. Changes in juvenile legislation and rapid population growth are two reasons to why there is an increase in delinquent reports. This perception of youth is characterized by fear and hostility (Schissel, 2010). Due to this perspective and misunderstanding, Aboriginal youth and youth of color are marginalized and discriminated against due to societal stigmas that have developed over time.
Social stigmas distinguish people from one another in a society and can be characterized by culture, gender, race, or health. For decades indigenous people have been oppressed by the Canadian government in more ways than one. The implementation of residential schools and the overrepresentation of indigenous people in the justice system are two major examples of how this culture is marginalized and discriminated against in society. The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) was introduced in 1999 and came into effect in 2003 (Theuer, 2019). This is the law that governs Canadian youth between the ages of 12-18. It was designed with the purpose of addressing the concerns that had evolved under the YOA.
These concerns included the overuse of incarceration, unfairness in sentencing, and lack of reintegration. The YCJA’s purpose is to address concerns that more punitive measures and special consideration for youth who come into conflict with the law are to be considered (Theuer, 2019). Under this Act, the main goal is to protect the public through crime prevention, rehabilitation for youth with reintegration as the end goal, and providing meaningful consequences for youth who come into conflict with the law (Theuer, 2019).
This Act also implements the consideration of differential needs based on culture, gender, language, and ethnicity (Theuer, 2019). While the YCJA has done an excellent job at combatting the incarceration rates by 35% of non-aboriginal youth, aboriginal youth has only seen a decrease of 23% (Jackson,2015). To put this number into perspective, data shows that Indigenous people only make up 8% of the youth population in Canada, but make up 46% of admissions to correctional facilities (Malone, 2018). Aboriginal youth are held in custody at a higher rate and for longer periods than non-aboriginal youth (Jackson, 2015).
Due to this marginalization of indigenous youth in the justice system, there seems to be a correlation between legal involvement and health outcomes. It is clear that aboriginal youth are more likely to become legally involved in the justice system compared to their non-aboriginal counterpart. Aboriginal youth are also more likely to suffer from depression causing self injury, victimization in public, being assaulted both physically and sexually, and being murdered (prominently young girls). All these factors pre determine aboriginal youth into a life filled with legal involvement. Individuals that suffer from poor mental health due to societal oppression and marginalization are at a greater risk of criminal justice involvement.
- Jackson, N. (2015). Aboriginal Youth Overrepresentation in Canadian Correctional Services: Judicial and Non-Judicial Actors and Influence. Alberta Law Review, 52(4), 927. https://doi.org/10.29173/alr293
- Malone, K. G. (2018, June 24). Nearly half of youth incarcerated across Canada are Indigenous: Statistics Canada. Retrieved from The Globe and Mail: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-nearly-half-of-youth-incarcerated-across-canada-are-indigenous/
- Schissel, B. (2010). Ill health and discrimination: The double jeopardy for youth in punitive justice systems. International Journal of Child, Youth, and Family Studies, 1(2): 157 –78. doi: dx.doi.org/10.18357/ijcyfs122010673
- Theuer, A. (2019). Lesson 2: Creating a juvenile justice system: Then and now [notes]. Retrieved from Wilfrid Laurier Mylearningspace site.