Can Teens Be Sent to Prison?

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No, people under 18 cannot be sent to an adult prison. But their freedom can be taken away.

A Youth Centre, Not Prison

Teenagers age 14 to 17 can have their freedom taken away if they are found guilty of a crime. But they are sentenced to custody instead of being sentenced to prison.

This means they don’t go to prison but are sent to youth centres.

Teenagers who commit crimes are not usually placed in custody. They are often given special punishments, extrajudicial measures or extrajudicial sanctions.

Helping Teenagers Find Their Place in Society

Teenagers who are in custody go to school and take part in activities offered by the youth centre.

They are supported by educators who help them find their place in society. This process is called social rehabilitation and reintegration. Social rehabilitation and reintegration means learning how to re-enter and live peacefully in the community while obeying the law. Educators provide guidance so the teenager will not commit another crime.

Other professionals are involved as well. For example, teenagers can meet with psychologists, attend anger management sessions or get help dealing with addiction.

Teenagers Can Sometimes Leave the Youth Centre

Depending on the circumstances, teenagers can be placed in open custody or secure custody. There is much more supervision in secure custody than in open custody.

Sometimes teens in custody are allowed to leave the youth centre. For example, some of them are allowed to work outside the centre. But the kind of work they do must help with their social rehabilitation and reintegration.

In most cases, teens in custody will serve the last part of their sentence “in the community”. This means they will live outside the youth centre but must obey conditions set for them.

What Happens When Teenagers Turn 18?

In some cases, teens who turn 18 while in a youth centre are sent to an adult prison to complete the rest of their sentence. But in other cases, they are allowed to stay in the youth centre.

Teenagers who turn 20 while in a youth centre will usually be sent to an adult prison, but there are exceptions.

In Canada, young people can be held responsible for crimes from the age of 12 onwards.