Tough guys – news/commentary /Letters to the editor – Re The Young Convicts Of ‘Criminal University’ (Time To Lead, July 18):
Published: July 19, 2011.   Carla Cesaroni

As part of my research during the past decade, I have interviewed male youthful offenders in custody. These young people have been sentenced to crimes ranging from stealing gum in a store to murder.

The Conservative government suggests its crime bill will be “tougher on youthful offenders.” It’s hard to imagine how anyone could make things tougher for the young men I’ve spoken with. More than half have had contact with the Children’s Aid Society. Nearly one-third have been removed from their families and/or been made a ward of the court. Most have substance abuse problems or mental health issues. Many come from a background of poverty and violent neighbourhoods.

Do I believe these young offenders should be held accountable? Absolutely. But a sentence of custody, the strongest penalty we can impose in Canada, should be reserved for the most serious of crimes and serious of offenders.

Carla Cesaroni, Faculty of Social Science and Humanities, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Oshawa, Ont.

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