Girls in the Central Interior of B.C. who are caught up in the youth justice system will be sent to Burnaby to serve sentences or await trial beginning soon. The change is one among a suite of moves to centralize B.C.’s custody services.
This is to benefit those young people by redistributing the budget says the province’s Minister for Children and Families, adding that part of the monies saved will go to enhancing other means of rehabilitation.
“The youth custody folks took a look at how low our occupancy rates were, which is a good story, as we’re running around 63 per cent,” Mary McNeil said,
“Sometimes there’s only one girl in Prince George, so it helps them cope with the feeling of isolation and if we put them all together we can do more gender-specific programs.”
The centralizing of custody services includes narrowing correction centre mandates so they will run mental health specific programs in Victoria and aboriginal programs in Prince George, McNeil noted.
Not everyone is for the idea, however. The family services spokesperson for the Carrier Sekani band sent a media release to express her opinion that it will be hard for families from the North and elsewhere far from centres to offer young women better chances for visits with family.
“These women shouldn’t be moved so far away, Mary Teegee wrote. She also sent a message to the advocate for youth and children, looking for her perspective.
The province’s advocate for youth and children, Mary Turpel Lafond, said she believes it is an experiment that she’s not sure be be in the girls’ best interest.
She noted that she has asked for a moratorium on transferring girls from Prince George for the time being,
“So (the officials) stop and think of how the lives of these girls will be affected before the decision is implemented,” Turpel Lafond said.
She added that the women should at least have an advocate with them when they’re transferred, which isn’t presently the case.
“I fail to see the logic of this government when it comes to serving the needs of vulnerable young women, as far as helping them receive the support of their families closer to home,” the youth and children’s rep said.