Keeping the Calgary Young Offenders Centre open is welcome news for Central Alberta lawyers, who were concerned about the planned closure’s impact on the rehabilitation of youths charged with crimes.
Local defence lawyers are relieved by the decision. Jason Snider, president of the Red Deer criminal defence lawyers association, said the proposed closure was an egregious example of centralization.
“The centralization of services that should stay local is a continuing concern to the justice community as a whole,” said Snider.
“There were some financial reasons why the CYOC was targeted for closure, but there were other societal reasons it should stay open. Particularly with regard to the Youth Criminal Justice Act that has an emphasis on rehabilitation and reintegration to the community.”
On Thursday, a press release from Alberta Justice said the move will ensure young offenders have access to necessary rehabilitative and custody services, while remaining close to their families.
“Taking youth from a locale and transporting them hours away from their supports has a very detrimental effect on their rehabilitation,” said Snider. “We saw the same thing in Red Deer when they closed the youth wing at the Red Deer Remand Centre … you lose that immediacy and the ability for the family to be involved in the youth’s rehabilitation while they are in custody.”
The youth wing of the Red Deer Remand Centre closed in 2004. Youths who are held in custody after they are arrested in Central Alberta are sent to either the Edmonton or Calgary young offenders centres.
“The CYOC closure made no sense from actually preventing them from becoming criminals in the long term,” said Snider.
“It is very welcome news and a positive sign that perhaps the government is taking a more humanistic and rehabilitative approach to justice rather than just a dollars and cents view.”
Premier Rachel Notley announced on Thursday the CYOC would remain open. The previous Progressive Conservative government had announced plans to close the CYOC in March.
After the New Democratic Party was elected on May 5, Alberta Justice announced the closure was put on hold pending a review to be completed by May 31.
It will remain open at an estimated cost of $3 million a year.