Missed Opportunities: The Experience of Young Adults Incarcerated in Federal Penitentiaries


Missed Opportunities: The Experience of Young Adults Incarcerated in Federal Penitentiaries

4 years ago 4 years ago Published by
This report was published by the Provincial Advocate for Children & Youth.


A unique aspect of this investigation was the opportunity for the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI) to partner with the Ontario Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children & Youth in conducting this work. This investigation demonstrates the essential arbitrariness of the distinction made between the youth and adult criminal justice systems. Reaching the age of 18 is not indicative of full physical and psychosocial development, but it is still the point at which the legal system designates full culpability and criminal responsibility as an adult. Young people aged 18 who commit criminal offences must be treated as an adult by law. Collaboration between the two Offices was essential to better understand how young people come into conflict/contact with the criminal justice system, their experience within the system, and what happens when these individuals find themselves placed in the adult correctional system.

Both Offices worked very closely in conducting interviews, extracting findings, reviewing reports, and developing recommendations. Recommendations were made by both Offices specific to their respective mandates. One recommendation is jointly supported by both Offices as it is directed to the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety in Canada. Recommendations made by the Correctional Investigator directed to the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) were informed by the views and expertise of the Ontario Provincial Advocate for Children & Youth.

Too often governments work in silos, overlooking commonalities and areas of overlap. This is unfortunate as criminal justice issues do not fall neatly into the mandate of one level of government. For this reason, it is important to build partnerships and undertake studies together to ensure that findings and recommendations are relevant and appropriate at all levels of government. It is common for sentenced individuals to be left behind or forgotten between the layers and levels of government or when they transition from one system to another. Working in partnership breaks down jurisdictional boundaries and produces results that are more comprehensive, constructive, and all-encompassing. They also facilitate a continuum of appropriate programs and services for these individuals and their families.

The benefit of this partnership was the ability to tell and understand the story of these individuals from childhood through to adolescence and their current experience in the federal adult correctional system. This partnership is an innovative example of how different levels of government can successfully come together to examine an issue, report on findings, and make recommendations that transcend the limits of jurisdictional boundaries.

Provincial Advocate for Children & Youth. (2017). Missed Opportunities: The Experience of Young Adults Incarcerated in Federal Penitentiaries. Toronto, ON: Author. Retrieved from

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