An Ethnographic Examination of the Toronto Community Youth Court: The Rehabilitation Ideal and Justice-Involved Youth with Mental Health and Substance Abuse Issues
A disproportionately high percentage of young persons in conflict with the criminal justice system experience mental health or substance use issues. The Youth Criminal Justice Act aspires to protect the public by holding accountable youth who have committed offences, while promoting their rehabilitation and responding to their particular needs. This attention to the rehabilitation and special needs of youth - or rehabilitation ideal - has been a feature of youth criminal justice in Canada for more than 100 years, yet no statute has defined or guided the meaning of "rehabilitation". Where youth experience mental health or substance use issues and commit offences, they are at the interstices of the youth criminal justice and mental health care system. Given the lack of statutory guidance as to how rehabilitation is to be interpreted, how do courts approach the statutory principles requiring that young persons who commit offences will be held accountable while their special needs are addressed and their rehabilitation is promoted? This is an ethnographic study of the Toronto Community Youth Court, a youth mental health court that liaises with community-based services, all while operating under a logic of "new public management" where courts are under increasing pressure to modernize by adopting practices to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness. This study will contribute to the literature on the rehabilitation of youth, which is slim, with virtually no literature concerning this particular population of young persons. As well, Fran Canerie will be able to contribute to the literatures concerning therapeutic courts for youth and youth criminal justice, which also are sparse.