Home / Bill 55: Corrections Amendment Act, re: juvenile offenders

Bill 55: Corrections Amendment Act, re: juvenile offenders

The Honourable G. Gardom
Attorney General of British Columbia
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, B.C.

Dear Mr. Gardom:

This letter and the attached materials are the product of our concern with Bill 55: Corrections Amendment Act, 1977. While the BCCLA appreciates the reasons leading the government to establish containment centres for what we have been told are, and will continue to be, the relatively small numbers of “hard core” juvenile offenders, we nonetheless firmly believe the creation and operation of these centres must be handled with sensitivity and caution. Unless certain principles governing the YCCs are a clear part of the legislative intent prior to the creation of the centres, we fear they are likely to become the same ugly facilities with which North America was all too familiar in earlier periods. As you will recall, many such facilities were finally abandoned in deep disgust because of the damage they did to their inmates, and the brutal and callous conditions in which they persistently operated. Therefore, we want to give special emphasis to the need to ensure adherence to a set of reasonable provisions as conditions governing the creation and operation of these centres prior to their establishment.

We believe the following general principles should be followed in establishing the YCCs:

  1. The proposed YCC program should be only one part of a set of programs designed to control and rehabilitate juvenile offenders. It is, presumably, not the governments’ total response to the problem. Indeed, if our assessment of available facilities is correct, it is designed to deal only with about 350 juveniles.
  2. Juveniles should have any and all rights granted to adults. This includes such rights as determinate sentencing, legal counsel, appeal rights and review rights.
  3. Juvenile offenders should, prima facie, be regarded by those charged with their care as “misguided children,” as outlined in the Juvenile Delinquents Act. The burden of proof that such juveniles ought to be otherwise regarded should rest upon those who would regard them in some other way. Thus, it should be necessary to go through exhaustive formal procedures before treating juveniles in any other way. In addition, juvenile access to their families, handling in small groups, the avoidance of “prison life” facilities, unscheduled external evaluations, separation of juvenile and adult facilities, open access to YCCs by legal counsel and parents, and monthly review of the status of all inmates should be clear policy in the implementation of Bill 55.
  4. To ensure that the foregoing principles are observed and, in general, to supervise the unusual type of facility which YCCs will be, we recommend the creation of a Supervisory Board. The Board’s membership should be about 60% weighted towards professionals and citizens whose proven interest and competence specially equips them to appreciate the rights and problems of young offenders incarcerated in the YCCs. The Supervisory Board should have unlimited access to ail YCCs and to all YCC records. It would have two major functions:
    • Protection of, and development of procedures to ensure protection of, the civil rights and special status of juvenile offenders incarcerated in the YCCs.
    • Overall planning of and administration of a long-term (meaning at least 10 years) research program into means designed to rehabilitate young offenders.

Adherence to these general principles and to the other, more specific recommendations attached, would largely ensure that, while the public is protected from the depredations of hard core young offenders, the containment conditions to which it subjects them meet civilized standards. Thus one could hope that, though these young people will not be much improved during incarceration, they will not be made worse.


L.B. Daniels
Vice President, BCCLA

Specific recommendations on civil rights and special status*

Civil rights of juveniles

1. (d) That there be a definite term of committal, subject to ongoing review.

(f) That provision be made for a regular external review of the situation of each inmate and the operation of the containment facilities.

7. (1) That legal counsel be provided, if necessary at public expense, to all youth where the prosecution recommends a sentence to the containment program.

(4) That where the predisposition report confirms a prior history of severe mental disorder or emotional disturbance, a full psychiatric report be obtained prior to sentencing.

(5) That the proposed legislation incorporate appeal provisions equivalent to those available to adult offenders convicted in the criminal courts.

10. (a) That each child upon admission be made fully aware of the processes of discharge from the institution.

11. (a) That no youth be placed in isolation, unless he or she is exhibiting violence towards other persons.

(b) That no child be isolated for longer than four hours.

12. That the categories of persons entitled to unrestricted access to containment facilities be broadened to include:

  • executive members of regional justice councils
  • members of Family and Children’s Court committees
  • legal counsel for youth in custody
  • social agency representatives assigned responsibility to develop or aid in the development of post-release plans.

13. (b) That the Director of a containment facility be authorized to restrict visits only for cause related to the security of the institution.

(c) That similarly the regulations affirm a right to correspondence and other forms of communication, subject to restriction by the Director for reasons of security.

Special status as juveniles

1. (a) That the program emphasize containment combined with rehabilitation.

(b) That facilities be “secure” rather than “closed”, and intensive staff involvement takes precedence over locked doors.

(c) That facilities be small and located in all major population regions of the province.

(g) That the administrative auspices for the program be separate from the administration of adult correctional services.

That the Youth Containment Program emphasize containment combined with rehabilitation. Consideration should be given to a variety of treatment models that might be used in each containment facility.

6. (c) That psychiatric and psychological services be readily available to each containment unit.

7. (2) That a predisposition report be mandatory in all such cases, and that a sentence to a youth containment program be conditional on an affirmative finding that the youth in question is clearly unsuitable for a program other than the containment program.

(3) That no youth be sentenced to a containment facility on first conviction unless he has been convicted of an offence indicating that he or she is dangerous to the physical safety of persons in the free community.

8. That a youth remanded in custody be confined in quarters that are separate from those used for persons sentenced to the containment program.

9. (a) That program planning for each child be reviewed no later than one week after admission and thereafter once every month.

(b) That the program planning committee consist of no less than the director or delegate, the social worker and teacher of the unit, the child involved, a member of the lay community, and where possible, the parents, and community probation officer and social worker.

l0. (b) That all discharge planning include the child, parents where possible and, where appropriate, a representative of the local Ministry of Human Resources.

13. (a) That the Legislative regulations provide an commitment to welcome visits by relatives and friends of young persons confined in containment facilities.

14. That an administrative structure that separates the adult from the juvenile field of corrections be implemented as part of the containment program.

* These recommendations are numbered to indicate those portions of the B.C. Association of Social Workers that we support.

5. Regulations governing ’Youth Containment Centres’ Bill
by Leroi Daniels

Leroi reported on a meeting Norm Einarsson and he attended with the B.C. Corrections Branch to discuss Youth Containment Centres (Bill 55)

At this meeting the topic of discussion was Citizens’ Advisory Groups in relationship to the centres. Some of the recommendations suggested by the persons attending the meeting were:

  1. that the committee shall have access to records, policy standards and procedures.
  2. that a group from the city be attached to each centre.
  3. that the committee shall not make public any information on the youth or the youth’s family acquired while fulfilling its responsibilities.
  4. that a quorum shall consist of twelve members.
  5. that there be a chance of appeal for inmates through both committees, primarily at the provincial level.
  6. that a committee be established to monitor quality of training.
  7. that there be one member of the community representing each correctional branch region.
  8. that on the committee there be an equal representation of lay persons and professionals.

Leroi’s impression of the Assistant Commissioner was that he was a reasonable man and wanted many of the same things the Association was asking for. The two points the Board expressed some doubt about were:

  1. no mention of rights of inmates
  2. access to records should be made with the authority of the committee because of the problem that may develop when every individual member requests information, this would become unacceptable to the administration.

There was a second meeting with the Corrections Branch, but neither Norm nor Leroi were able to attend.

Page 3, Board Minutes, 11 July 1977

Proposals for the newYoung Offenders Act

Leroi Daniels briefly reviewed the proposed Young Offenders Act for the purpose of providing information on what seems to be the basis of reports concerning proposals for the Young Offenders legislation that is scheduled to be introduced next year. There was also discussion of a provision in Bill 55—the proposed B.C. Corrections Amendment Act—regarding containment centres for juveniles in the province. It was decided to take no action at this point, thinking it best to either take issue with the government when the Young Offenders legislation is introduced, or alternatively, to present our views to Superintendent of Child Welfare Belnap who is in the process of suggesting changes.