Unreasonable Procedure in Youth Custody

Authority Burnaby Youth Custody Services

Richard and several other residents of a youth custody centre were concerned about being placed on one-to-one status and moved to what they referred to as a segregation unit.

Being on one-to-one status meant that one staff person had to be with the youth whenever the youth was outside of his or her room. As there were sometimes insufficient staff on shift to allow a dedicated staff person to be with a single youth at all times, youths on one-to-one status spent significant time locked in their rooms.

In some cases, youths on one-to-one status were transferred to a unit that was not otherwise in use. Sometimes the youth on one-to-one was the only person on the unit and at other times, youths would be allowed out of their rooms only one at a time. The youths complained they were not getting access to programs and had limited or no opportunities to interact with other youths on the unit.

Richard stayed on the separate unit for ten days and his one-to-one status was in place during this period. Documentation we reviewed indicated that Richard received no programming on his first day and received limited access to programming on subsequent days. The centre’s daily logs indicated that on multiple occasions Richard was locked in his room for periods ranging from 30 minutes to 2.5 hours. We found that the other youths who contacted us had similar experiences. Records indicated that the assistant director spoke to Richard and other youths living on the unit but there was no detail regarding the substance of those discussions.

We noted there were no references to or authorization for one-to-one status in either legislation or policy. It seemed to us that the circumstances of the youths who complained to us constituted separate confinement. While separate confinement is authorized under the Youth Custody Regulation, the authority to separately confine a youth is, for good reason, subject to a number of limitations and procedural safeguards. As the centre viewed one-to-one status as a behaviour management strategy rather than separate confinement, it did not consider Richard and other youths on one-to-one status to be separately confined, and the rules related to separate confinement had therefore not been followed. In particular, the limited circumstances under which a youth may be separately confined did not necessarily exist and the periods that Richard and others were separately confined seemed to far exceed the duration allowed under the Youth Custody Regulation. Furthermore, it did not appear that adequate documentation and reporting requirements under policy and legislation were being consistently met.

The Youth Custody Regulation states that youths may not be separately confined for a period longer than is necessary and to a maximum of 72 hours. While there are provisions that allow a separate confinement order to continue beyond 72 hours, policy states that only in the most unusual and extreme circumstances should this happen. If a youth is confined separately for more than 72 hours, the Regulation requires both centre staff and the Provincial Director of Youth Justice to take specific steps to review the separate confinement and to record those decisions. We were concerned that the effect of one-to-one status resulted in the separate confinement of youths without the safeguards of the Regulation.

In response to the concerns raised by our Office and after extensive consultation, Youth Custody Services discontinued its practice of using one-to-one as a behaviour management strategy and had senior management follow up with staff to ensure behaviour management strategies and consequences that were applied were consistent with the Youth Custody Regulation and youth custody policy and procedures.

In addition, a process to review and update the existing youth custody policy and the Youth Custody Regulation regarding separate confinement of youths was initiated. Changes to the youth custody policy were to require information regarding the definition of separate confinement, a process for ensuring that youths had the opportunity to dispute the imposition of separate confinement, and the development and communication of a clearly documented plan to support the youths while on separate confinement status.

With respect to the concerns we noted about the lack of detail on the youths’ daily logs, policy changes were to include more detailed descriptions of the youths’ activities, demeanour and/or physical condition, access to programs and services and any period outside of the room. Finally, any information flowing from a daily review or discussions held by staff pertaining to the continuation or lifting of a youth’s separate confinement status was to be documented.

We were satisfied that the serious issues that we had identified through our investigation were being addressed.

Category Children and Youth, Corrections
Type Case Summary
Fiscal Year 2015
Location The Lower Mainland