Recently in class, we have been reading The Touching Spirit Bear novel. We are about half way through the book and today, I will be writing about how this book relates to our new topic, which is youth criminal justice.
As we all know, if you are over 18 and you have committed a crime, you will receive some sort of adult sentence. If you are below the age of 12 there are also many alternative measures but the question comes, what happens if you are a youth (12-18) and have committed a crime? The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) is a legislation that reflects the youth in Canada from ages 12 to 18 who have committed a crime. This act states that if a youth from the ages 12 to 18 have committed any sort of crime, they will seek consequences. The objective of this act is to rehabilitate young persons who commit offences and reintegrate them into society. YCJA recognizes that the criminal justice system for young persons must be separate from that of adults and recognize their reduced level of maturity.
So far in Touching Sprit Bear, Cole, a 14 year old, hurt Peter Driscal who was one of his peers. This caused many problems and Cole was then appointed to the Youth Justice Committee and the "healing circle." This healing circle is just like the Restorative Justice Program in Canada. When Cole was sent to the healing circle, the community and his family were critically involved with the decision making of what to do with cole. The Restorative Justice Program gives opportunity to look at harm that has been done and decide if a solution to address it exists, that allows to maintain the young person's responsibility but also maintain dignity. Instead of Cole going to jail, the Circle of Justice (Youth Criminal Justice Committee) decided to sentence him another way. For him to change, they decided to send him to an island off the coast of Alaska. After given that chance, Cole had come back to the healing circle and once again he was sent to the island as the healing circle decided that he still needed time to change. Just like this, the Youth Justice Committee sends youth to different programs for them to change and Cole was sent to the island as they thought this was the best thing to do.
I believe what the healing circle decided for Cole was an important thing to do. By leaving him alone on the island, he could really experience that he is not the strongest force upon everything and that some things can overtake him. When he struggled for food, shelter and to escape, he realized that he doesn’t really have power over everything. In my opinion, the island is a great way for Cole to experience his culpability for what he did but I also think that when he comes back from the island, there should be more measures taken. In the book, they had mentioned that Cole’s dad used to beat him and his mom was drinking. Because of all these factors, he wasn’t good at school and he also had anger issues, which caused him to beat up Peter. In my perspective, I think that Cole should also be sent to a class that teaches how to stay calm and prevent anger issues. The parents action of taking a divorce will also be a great way to make Cole a better person.