Alarming report on the education of young prisoners in Ontario

From the outset, the authors of the study specify that their report is not quantitative, but rather qualitative and anecdotal, because the young prisoners whom they approached only gave their opinion on a voluntary basis.

L’ACLC spoke to young detainees, detention facility staff and teachers, as well as justice system professionals familiar with detention facilities.

They further point out that the situation differs from one institution to another in Ontario and from one prison population to another, depending on the ethnicity of the young inmates.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce is responsible for education programs in Ontario in conjunction with school boards. (Archives)

Photo : Radio-Canada / Brian Morris

Their report recalls that education for young people in detention is discretionary and not compulsory in Ontario.

In the centers where it is provided, however, education is a luxury and not a necessity, according to Michael Bryant, executive director of CCLA.

The authors cite the example of a young person who was only entitled to one hour of learning per day and who was allowed even less time to discuss with her teacher.

Bryant explains that prison workers sometimes show goodwill, but they are ridiculisés by school boards when they request educational assistance.

Michael Bryant.

The director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Michael Bryant, was the attorney general of Ontario in the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty. (Archives)

Photo : CBC/Jacqueline Hansen

He adds that many young people incarcerated in the province are treated as second class students. They are made to believe that they do not deserve to receive an education because of their situation, according to him.

In some cases, juvenile detention centers are only human warehouses, where the situation of young prisoners can only deteriorate, due to lack of access to quality continuing education., he said at a press conference Tuesday in Toronto.

The authors of the report stress that all young Ontarians in custody deserve to have their interest in education nurtured.

« In this country, when a minor ends up in the correctional system, it is incumbent on our society to provide him with education, schooling and hope to prevent our juvenile detention centers from becoming institutions with revolving doors. »

A quote from Michael Bryant, Executive Director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association

It is the government’s duty to ensure, according to them, that these young people deserve to benefit from the advantages that flow from the possibilities of a real education to guarantee their future on their release from prison and prevent them from falling back through the cracks. of the justice system.

The authors of the study also recall that minors in detention remain vulnerable individuals. Detention is already a severe punishment. Neglect of the state’s duty to provide education should not exacerbate this punishment, can we read there.

Several recommendations

The authors of the report note differences in organizational culture, because some juvenile detention centers treat young people as a security threat, rather than students who deserve reintegration through educational opportunities.

To make matters worse, evidence suggests this is especially the case when the majority of young people are Black., they write.

They further acknowledge that their report does not mention any testimony from Aboriginal youth, because none of the youth they met identified as such.

Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Merrilee Fullerton stands in front of a microphone and addresses the press.

Children, Community and Social Services Minister Merrilee Fullerton is responsible for youth who are incarcerated in Ontario. (Archives)

Photo : Radio-Canada / Vedran Leisic

The report of theACLC proposes 19 recommendations to the government, such as that of reviewing, as a first step, all education programs offered in detention to identify gaps, disparities and inequalities.

The results of this internal audit should also be made public.

The study then suggests making education compulsory in detention for minors and expanding the school curriculum where it is already provided, but by adding extracurricular activities, for example.

She also calls on the government to demonstrate greater oversight, transparency and accountability, and to combat systemic racism in the province’s judiciary and corrections.

Finally, it recommends collecting data on young Aboriginals and young blacks, who are the most numerous, according to the authors, to not have access to an education in detention.

Government reactions

In an email, Minister Merrilee Fullerton’s office writes that young inmates have access to education programs through their school board so that their learning is not interrupted while in detention.

It is important to provide all the appropriate support and necessary interventions that meet the unique needs of juveniles in detention, but also to ensure that they are held accountable for their actions.adds Communications Manager Krystle Caputo.

Ms. Caputo further assures that the ministry offers programs that aim to develop their strengths and interests so that they become productive members of society, when they are released into the community.

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