Closure of detention facility in Windsor means youth transferred elsewhere

·2 min read
The Butch Collins Residence, which opened in 1987, has been shut down by the provincial government due to a decrease in youth crime. (Google Maps - image credit)
The Butch Collins Residence, which opened in 1987, has been shut down by the provincial government due to a decrease in youth crime. (Google Maps - image credit)

The recent closure of a youth detention facility in Windsor has caught some by surprise, including those running it.

The Butch Collins Residence was operated by New Beginnings. It was home to eight young offenders before it was closed in March by the province.

The facility, which hosts youth in both open custody and open detention, has been operating since the 80s, said Stacey Yannacopoulos, the executive director at New Beginnings.

Youth who would have served their sentences in Windsor are being sent elsewhere, and Yannacopoulos said one of her concerns is that the closest open custody facility for youth is now in Hamilton.

"So there's the concern of transporting youth far from their home communities, and how that sort of separates them from their community, from their support systems," she said.

The province has recently shut down 26 youth detention facilities, the Canadian Press reported in March. One of the reasons is a lack of demand for such facilities. The provincial government says the number of youth admitted to custody has fallen by 81 per cent since 2004-2005.

Patricia Brown, a criminal defence lawyer in Windsor who has represented a number of young offenders, was also caught off guard by the decision to close the facility.

She noticed that some of her clients were being sent to Hamilton and Niagara and assumed it was simply related to COVID-19 and capacity concerns.

Brown said she sees evidence of the decrease in youth crime, and also spoke of the challenges that come with youth being away from their communities.

One of her clients was a young man initially placed at New Beginnings but was transferred to another region before getting bail after a period of several days.

"It did cause some distress on him because of the familiarity that he had become accustomed to in our local community and he was removed from that," she said.

On the other hand, Brown also sees something of a silver lining in the closure, suggesting that the move reflects progress and a shift in the justice system.

"There is a presumption against custody for young offenders and youthful offenders. We want to encourage our young people to be rehabilitated, we want to encourage them to be in the community with their families. We want to discourage incarceration absolutely. And so the Youth Criminal Justice Act speaks to that."

LISTEN | Hear more from Brown on CBC's Windsor Morning:

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