Recidivism is a term used in the justice system for people of all ages. It describes a person’s relapse into criminal behaviour or reoffence within three years of release.

Combatting recidivism is the primary goal in the youth justice system. Youth programs are designed to provide people with tools that help them change their behaviours and overcome barriers. First, programs must understand the influences in a young person’s life that lead to criminal activity. Second, they identify potential pressures after youth reintegrate into their communities.

Let’s explore three significant factors that put pressure on youth after their release from the youth justice system and increase the chance of recidivism.

1. Limited Employment Prospects

Anyone with even a minor criminal offence on their record faces barriers to securing employment.

Many employers are reluctant to hire individuals with a record, regardless of the context. Youth with a history of criminal activity are often just starting to build their resume, so their options become extremely limited.

People re-entering society usually end up in low-paying jobs with few benefits or opportunities for growth. This consequence creates a vicious cycle whereby individuals have few prospects of a brighter future than what they were risking with criminal activity.

2. Difficulty Finding Housing

Our goal is always to reintegrate youth into their family homes, but this isn’t always possible or positive for their behaviour. In this case, youth and young adults must find a new home.

The first problem with housing is affordability. Most Canadians can attest to the rising prices and current inaccessibility to housing, but people with a record face a second problem. Unfortunately, there are barriers and common landlord practices that discriminate against people with a record. This stigma can prevent people from finding a rental unit or force them into precarious housing agreements.

3. Mental Health Concerns

Mental illness often overlaps with criminal behaviour. Youth can leave custody facilities without adequate support for depression, anxiety, substance use, and many health concerns that they can’t cope with alone.

Reintegrating into society is extremely difficult, but mental illness can make it seem like an impossible task. The stigma around mental illness and addictions is combined with a lack of affordable existing resources. These biases limit youth justice programs as we attempt to set youth up for success and reduce the risk of recidivism.

These are only three of the many barriers and specific stigmas that influence young people to re-offend when they return to society. Our next blog will highlight actions that you can take as a youth justice advocate to reduce recidivism and contribute to safer communities.

Written by Mariella Martino

Community Access Coordinator

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