Young people with social and economic disadvantages and racialized youth are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Young people in the justice system have higher rates of mental health issues, learning and cognitive challenges, substance use issues, histories of trauma and maltreatment, and homelessness. Their struggles often reflect deficiencies in our education and child welfare systems: in Ontario, 36% of youth in custody are not enrolled in school and 49% are in the care of children’s aid societies. Once in contact with the law, these challenges are exacerbated by the stigma associated with criminal justice involvement, strict bail and probation orders, and punishments that are antithetical to rehabilitation.
At Peacebuilders, we’re committed to ensuring that youth and families are not only provided with access to justice, but access to social justice. This means addressing the underlying factors that lead to youth involvement in the justice system and advocating for policy reforms that meaningfully engage youth, their families and communities, and make them stronger.