Attendance Centre Pilot Project
The purpose of the Attendance Centre Pilot Project was to redirect youth in conflict with the law away from an open or closed custody disposition to a community-based attendance program to help promote community re-integration and offender accountability. The Attendance Centre was intended to be a ‘one-stop’ centre from which youth who are in conflict with the law can receive key services and programming, as well as be referred to other programs and services directly related to their needs.
The Department of Justice’s Youth Justice Policy Section carried out an evaluation of several Operation Springboard pilot projects, which assessed the impacts these projects had on helping young offenders avoid incarceration. This impact was determined by looking at the extent to which the pilot projects reduced the use of court process and custody, as well as identification of any evidence that the youth involved in the project would have otherwise gone through the formal court process or been sentenced to custody.
Until March 2002, the Attendance Center Pilot Project has had a total of 260 youth referred to it. Of these, 37 were ordered into the program by the court. Another 164 were referred through probation services and 59 were referred through community agencies.
Of the 37 court-ordered youth, 28 were custody-bound and 2 were probation-bound. In seven cases, the youth’s status was not known. Although the pilot project was originally only expected to accept 16-17 year old youth by court order, six younger youth were court ordered to participate. Sexual and high-profile violent offenders were ineligible.
The Youth Court followed a protocol for identifying youths for referral to the Attendance Centre, from a pool of young offenders who would otherwise be custody-bound. When the youth was ordered to attend the Centre, project staff obtained information about the youth from the assigned probation officer, and based on this developed a set of mandatory and voluntary activities for the youth. Goals for each activity and service the youth would engage in were established and a formal Attendance Program Plan of Care was drafted.
The youth and the Centre commenced implementing the youth’s Plan of Care within seven days of the Plan of Care meeting. Once the youth completed all components of the Plan of Care, including any ‘length of stay’ requirements, the youth was discharged from the program. If there were service disruptions due to absenteeism or extreme lateness, the Centre staff could notify the probation officer and discontinue services or place services on hold. An evolving yet detailed policy and procedure manual specific to the Attendance Centre was developed.
The project was administered by a Project Steering Committee, composed of representatives of most components of the justice system (police, judiciary, crown, probation services), which met regularly on any project issues that arose. It was co-located with a Youth Employment Resource Centre that provides services to community youth.
Based on participant interviews, quarterly reports, statistics and Steering Committee meeting minutes, the project assessment indicated that its goals are being met, especially with those youth who were custody-bound and those referred through probation. Participants saw the integration of Attendance Centre programming with the services provided by the Youth Employment Resource Centre as helpful to their reintegration. In addition, the project established a wide range of programming linkages with other agencies, community-based organizations, justice system and referral partners.
While there was solid evidence that youth enjoyed and felt cared for at the centre, and the staff was dedicated and skilled at working with youth and the community, it was not possible to provide objective recidivism and personal growth data, which indicates that there is a need for more substantial outcome research to fully support the conclusion that youth who are custody bound are being rehabilitated and reintegrated into the community.
Further steps should be taken to ensure that information regarding youths’ pre- and post-programming skills and limitations is captured, as that would enable the Centre to demonstrate more fully that it is having an impact on the youth involved.
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