Ill Health and Discrimination: The Double Jeopardy for Youth in Punitive Justice Systems
AbstractThe author argues that despite the rhetoric of Canada’s youth justice system framework, there is a striking lack of funding for, or commitment to, alternatives to formal justice when dealing with marginalized young people. One consequence of this is an epidemic of ill health, both physical and emotional, among at-risk youth. It is this reality, not criminality, that is the defining characteristic of this vulnerable population. To underline this point, the author presents his research on marginalized Aboriginal youth, and notes that the public perception of young people in conflict with the legal system is defined by fear and hostility rather than sympathy. He also discusses examples of micro-communities that understand the epidemic of ill health plaguing marginalized youth and that provide an antidote to the condemnation of children and youth in the larger society. He notes that for children and youth, involvement with the law is a profound individual and collective health risk and argues against conservative law and order politics. He emphasizes the importance of research driven intervention, crime prevention and alternatives to the criminal justice system.
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