Since the adoption of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) a reduction in youth crime recidivism has prevailed, except for the most serious violent offenders. The purpose of this thesis was to explore whether the absence of mandatory treatment under the YCJA explains why this population of youth are at a high risk to re-offend after judicial intervention. Using a developmental and life-course theory lens, this thesis employed a case analysis, which examined 22 cases from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Through two analyses it was discovered that judicial ideologies and the decision-making processes of judges do not align with the current developmental research that has found individualized, intensive, and validated treatment programs are the best way to decrease the risk of recidivism for this population of youth. Due to their multi-level risk factors, without treatment their chances of recidivism and the likelihood of becoming career criminals increases substantially. Rather, it was found that the majority of youth in this study were sentenced as adults, and the role of rehabilitation was of no importance in the judges’ final decision. This thesis argues for the need of mandated treatment as the current establishment of the Canadian juvenile justice system has been ineffective in dealing with serious violent youth, and will continue to be, unless changes are implemented.
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Thesis advisor: MacAlister, David
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