Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 71, Issue 5, pp 503–523 | Cite as

Increased clarity or continued ambiguity? Correctional officers’ experiences of the evolving Canadian youth justice legislation

  • Rosemary RicciardelliEmail author
  • Michael Adorjan
  • Adrienne Peters


Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) heralded many changes in the treatment of youth within the justice system, particularly in regard to holding youth “accountable” and the use of “meaningful consequences.” Under the former Young Offenders Act (YOA) far more youth were given custodial sentences, while under the YCJA youth custody rates have plummeted. Yet few scholars have empirically assessed how correctional officers working with youth (COs) interpret and experience “accountability” and “meaningful consequences” in their day-to-day work. Based on 24 in-depth interviews, we examine the most perceptible changes COs employed in Canadian youth closed-custody facilities encountered, as a result of the legislative movement from the YOA to the YCJA. Findings suggest that the criminality of sentenced youth has changed with the new legislation, as well as how COs do their job—some feeling that the legislation is at odds with their occupational responsibility and negatively impacting their ability to “do the job”. Recommendations for youth correctional practice are offered.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyMemorial UniversitySt. John’sCanada
  2. 2.University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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