Two Thunder Bay youth detention facilities to close by April 30

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THUNDER BAY — Two Thunder Bay youth detention facilities will close permanently by April 30, the Ontario government has announced.

Due to a reduction of youth being admitted into custody and detention in Ontario since 2004, several youth justice facilities including the Jack McGuire Centre and JJ Kelso Youth Centre in Thunder Bay have been significantly underused.

“A focus on prevention and education programs has contributed to an 81 per cent reduction of youth admitted into custody and detention,” a spokesperson with the ministry of children, community and social services said in an emailed statement.

In 2019 and 2020, Jack McGuire Centre, a male youth detention centre in Thunder Bay, had a utilization rate of 29 per cent and JJ Kelso Youth Centre, a female youth facility, had a utilization rate of 12 per cent, the ministry said.

“Youth who resided in these facilities are from northern communities were transferred to remaining facilities in the northern region,” the ministry said.

The decision to close these facilities comes from recommendations made by the auditor general.

These actions will address the significant under-utilization, build a sustainable system that will fully support youth in conflict with the law and will allow the government to reinvest more than $39.9 million annually into programs that support Ontario families and communities," the statement said.

The facilities will no longer be operational by April 30.

Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source