Young Offenders' Perceptions of their Experiences within the Canadian Youth Justice System

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Hanssen, K. Larisa
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Apart from Hazel, Hagell, and Brazier (2002), little qualitative research exits that draws upon the perspectives of young offenders related to their experiences within the youth criminal justice system. Understanding how young people perceive their experiences within the youth justice system provides valuable insight into how current apprehension/arrest, court, sentencing, and youth justice programs and services affect young offenders, given that many young offenders lack understanding of the criminal justice (Baum & Wheeler, 1968; Erickson, 1982; Hazel et al., 2002; Langley, Thomas, & Parkinson, 1978; Peterson-Badali, Koegl, & Ruck, 1999).The present exploratory study obtained the perspectives of former young offenders related to their experiences within the Canadian youth justice system. In-depth individual interviews were conducted with seven (1 female, 6 males) participants who described their responses and adjustments to being apprehended and sentenced by the law. The interviews were held in semi-structured, audio-taped sessions, maintaining strict ethical principles of confidentiality and voluntary participation. Transcribed interviews were analyzed using cross-comparative, discovery-based, grounded theory methodology, that identified a core category of Transitioning, four major descriptive categories, Transitioning Through the law, Home Life, Young Offending Life and Youth Justice Experiences, and Post Young Offending and Future Outlook, and a theoretical explanation of the basic psychosocial processes undertaken by young offenders in response to their involvement with the law. Recommendations are offered for preventative approaches to young offending and improvements to the youth criminal justice system, with implications for young offenders, their families and communities, and youth justice programming and services. Given the variety of factors and influences that contribute to youth offending, it is suggested that a systemic approach, that draws from larger societal concern for the welfare of its homes, families, communities, and citizens, be developed, that looks to directly address such critical social issues as poverty, home violence, racism, barriers to education and mental health access, and family breakdown. With the recognized and profound influence of the home environment upon childrenâ s development, it is suggested that the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services increase the availability of early intervention programs dedicated to parental education and support, in order to engage with and assist at-risk families. In addition, it is suggested that the Nova Scotia Department of Justice work more closely with the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services and community-based services, to share, where appropriate, young offendersâ case information, in order to best plan responsibly and knowledgably the programs of individual young offenders.
Public opinion , Juvenile justice , Maritime Provinces , Juvenile delinquents , Attitudes , Rehabilitation