Ontario’s troubled youth deserve better care at Brampton superjail
TheStar.com – opinion/editorials – Roy McMurtry Youth Centre is doing enough to help teens in trouble with the law.
Aug 08 2013. Editorial
It was promoted as a superjail, where kids in conflict with the law would benefit from accountability and compassion, a powerful rehabilitation that promised to help young people reach their potential. Sadly, four years after the Roy McMurtry Youth Centre opened its doors, many teens still aren’t getting the help they need.
As the Star’s Patty Winsa reports, a new report by Ontario’s advocate for children and youth, Irwin Elman, sheds light on problems that are blocking the Brampton centre from attaining the goals it set for itself. Elman lays out a cautionary tale of unmet expectations.
And despite some improvements, the Ontario government must take immediate action to transform an unpredictable and punitive jailhouse culture, especially when it enables certain staff to treat young people like hardened adult criminals. While some teens in the 190-bed facility have been toughened by years in street gangs, that doesn’t mean they can’t be reached.
As Elman points out, the centre’s ability to successfully engage its teenage inmates has reached a tipping point. “This centre can move towards its potential and promise, or it can go the other way.” It’s a wise observation. The onus is now on the Ministry of Children and Youth Services to make the centre function as it should, using staff as positive role models.
The report, based on two years of conversations with 100 inmates (90 live there now) detailed volatile relationships with workers, as well as guard-on-inmate violence, physical restraints and the despair of solitary confinement.
Equally troubling is the shocking lack of programs for anger management, life counseling and substance abuse, which are supposed to help inmates become functioning members of society. These courses — the supposed bedrock of the facility’s focus on rehabilitation — have actually capped the number allowed to attend. What a wasted opportunity. It’s a far cry from the lofty levels of care anticipated, given the facility’s inspirational nod to respected youth advocate and former Ontario attorney general Roy McMurtry.
Ontario knew the programming it originally promised troubled youth could make a difference in their lives. With that knowledge, the government must ensure that its so-called superjail really does offer kids a second chance.
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