LONDON, ONT – The King St. Internment Camp in London, Ont. is one of the 26 youth justice facilities that are no longer financed by the province due to a “considerable underutilization”.
“In 2019-2020, the King Street Detention Center had an occupancy rate of only 37 percent,” said Palmer Lockridge, spokesman for the Department for Children, Community and Social Services.
The closure of these facilities results from the recommendations of an Auditor General report in 2012 and a follow-up action in 2014. The report called on the government to “build a sustainable system that fully supports young people in conflict with the law”.
“A focus on prevention and education programs has helped reduce the number of juveniles detained and detained in Ontario since 2004-05 by 81 percent. This means 8,500 fewer people are admitted annually than in 2004 -05. Our government has inherited a number of facilities that have been severely underutilized, including the King Street Detention Center in London. “
According to Kathryn Eggert, Chief Executive Officer of Humana Community Services, the government carried out a “massive system change” on Monday. She believes this will create uncertainty in both the ministry and the youth until the system stabilizes.
“I imagine that this will create some fears and anxieties for teens about what it means to them. Teens need to build new relationships with new employees and also with the teens they are living with now. It will be new routines and expectations And many, will live far from the families of their choice, so the youth will likely feel the isolation of that separation from their supports. ”
The youth in London have now been relocated to another of the 27 remaining licensed facilities in Ontario. For example, a family in Windsor may now have a child in Hamilton, an institution 300 km away.
“Now, more often, they will live far from their home communities. Integration into their communities therefore requires careful planning and resource allocation to maximize continued success for youth when they are released from prison and / or custody “says Eggert.
Eric Johnston is the corporate representative for IAM, the direct caregiver union at King St. Detention Center. He also worked for the former Genest Detention Center for Youth in London.
“These are teenagers who are living in our community and will return to our community, and they are being uprooted,” Johnson says.
“One of the main predictors of reducing relapse rates is the ability to reintegrate, and I don’t know how the government is going to achieve that when children are in the communities they live in.”
During Thursday’s Question Time on Ontario Legislation, NDP MP Suze Morrison, the critic of urban indigenous problems, raised concerns about the government’s closure of facilities in Northern Ontario and the relocation of children between the ages of 12 and 17 in the middle of it the night from Thunder Bay to Thunder Bay Sault Ste. Marie.
“Grand boss Alvin Fiddler (of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation) said Ontario should be ashamed and I agree,” says Morrison.
“The provincial child and youth attorney also said these young people have been treated like pieces of furniture with no rights and without feeling that they have already been through trauma and that their families do not know where they would do it that way It will have a devastating effect on their families. “
Eggert says that decision could have serious implications for the teenagers.
“Many young people in the judiciary also suffer from mental health problems – some experts estimate up to 90 percent, with many requiring a special response to treatment,” says Eggert.
“These youngsters are particularly at risk now as they break up with their therapeutic relationships and suddenly move.”
According to Johnson, the shutdown will affect not only the youth, but also the employees. Between 20 and 25 people lost their jobs overnight.
“There was no government instruction on whether there would be additional funding or assistance,” says Johnson.
“They did good jobs with benefits, and now these have just been torn away from them. They no longer exist for these people. It was abrupt, they knew it was coming and they could have support for these people and they could get none of it done “.
According to the ministry, the underutilization meant there was “no point in keeping these facilities open”. It also saves the government $ 40 million annually.
“As a result of the underutilization of these juvenile justice facilities, five had no children and 13 had one,” said Todd Smith, Minister for Children, Community and Social Services.
“This is important and shows the success of keeping families together and getting youngsters on track to become positive members of society. The bottom line is that 8,500 fewer children are in custody and now being cared for in the community, and that’s good news “.
However, Johnson denies claims for $ 40 million in savings.
“You’re not quantifying the impact of this decision in its entirety,” says Johnson
“If you take into account that youth are not receiving adequate care, transporting people out of work, and making an impact on my members. You have stolen jobs from the people in this church and taken away children from the people in the church, and that’s inappropriate.”