B.C. enhancing youth custody services

VICTORIA – B.C. is enhancing services for youth in custody as part of a redesign undertaken to reflect low occupancy rates in the Province’s three centres in Burnaby, Victoria and Prince George.

With B.C.-wide occupancy currently at 65 per cent, B.C. Youth Custody Services can operate more efficiently by centralizing all girls’ services in Burnaby, reducing operating levels in Victoria and Prince George, and redirecting savings to expand rehabilitation services at all three centres.

The very small numbers of girls in Victoria and Prince George centres – sometimes only one or two at a time – has not allowed for the development of sustainable female-oriented programs in those centres. The centralization of girls’ services in Burnaby will create a larger grouping of girls and permit the development and enhancement of programs that, for example, address addictions and trauma typically experienced by girls.

Funding has also been set aside for a girls’ family visitation program in Burnaby, and for special female sheriffs’ escorts to expedite the transportation of girls to Burnaby from courts in outlying areas.

Other planned improvements to youth custody rehabilitation services include:
* Enhancements to Aboriginal programs for the predominately Aboriginal youth in custody in Prince George. These service enhancements will be implemented after consultation with Aboriginal stakeholders.
* Expanded mental health and addictions counselling and treatment services at the Victoria centre.

B.C. consistently has one of the lowest rates of youth custody in Canada, due its use of community-based alternative programs, treatment services and integrated service delivery. B.C.’s youth custody rates have fallen 75 per cent since 1995-96 – from a high of 400 to an average of 105 in 2011-12.

Minister of Children and Family Development, Mary McNeil said, “We have fewer and fewer youth incarcerated in B.C. – a credit to our system and our services. This now allows us to enhance rehabilitation services for youth at all three centres in the province.”