The provincial government is undertaking a review of the current youth justice system in Manitoba and its connections to the child welfare system, with the aim of ending cycles of crime for at-risk youth, Justice Minister Cliff Cullen and Families Minister Heather Stefanson announced today.

“The current youth criminal justice system that our government inherited simply isn’t meeting the needs of young people or, more broadly, our society,” said Cullen. “Manitoba’s youth crime, incarceration and recidivism rates continue to be a problem. It is clear that we need a new, more comprehensive and effective approach to deal with these issues.”

Statistics show Manitoba has the highest rate of youth incarceration in Canada, at four times the national average, and the youth violent crime severity index is also among the highest in the country, Cullen noted.

A team of senior staff from Manitoba Justice and Manitoba Families will report back to government, with recommendations and an implementation plan to be made public later this year. This work will result in changes to how the province deals with youth who come into the criminal justice system, with the goals of:
• reducing reoffending,
• reducing incarceration while still managing risks to public safety, and
• enhancing access to treatment and support for young offenders to end cycles of crime.

A recent review of one month of admissions to the Manitoba Youth Centre confirmed significant overlap between young people involved in the child welfare system and the youth justice system. Approximately 60 per cent of youth charged with criminal offences are involved in the child welfare system.

“Children in care are at risk of being over-represented as offenders and victims, resulting in a cycle that is hard to break,” said Stefanson. “Unfortunately, the child welfare and criminal justice systems have operated independent of one another for too long, creating duplication, inefficiencies and poor outcomes for youth. Our government believes there must be a better way forward for young people and families who are often in crisis.”

The recommendations and implementation plan are expected to build on the commitments set out in the province’s Criminal Justice System Modernization Strategy, which was released in March 2018.

For more information please visit the government of Manitoba Twitter page.