New program to reduce number of Manitoba Indigenous youth in custody – Winnipeg

A new program at Marymound Inc. in Manitoba aims to reduce the number of Aboriginal youth involved in the justice system.

Zaagiwe Oshinawe Inaakonigewin, which translates to “To love (the) youth (in) justice,” is a youth justice program based on Indigenous healing principles. It will connect participants to their community, culture and Indigenous identity while working to prevent recurrence.

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Participants will benefit from comprehensive support during their stay in the justice system and during their transition out of custody.

« At the end of the day, this is how young people who are involved in the justice system succeed, » Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said, « not only through programs that take place in closed custody or a correctional facility, but beyond that in their community.

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Marymound Inc. executive director Nancy Parker points out that the program will be different for each individual. Participants will be able to access outdoor activities as well as Marymound treatment to better support their growth.

« It’s their voice, it’s strength-based, and it again allows for a unique healing journey for each young person, » Parker said.

According to Statistics Canada, Indigenous youth made up 43% of youth in custody in 2018, even though they made up only 8.8% of all youth in Canada. The program aims to address this overrepresentation by looking at the root causes of crime, such as trauma and substance abuse.

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“Individual approaches are so, so critical,” Parker said. « There is not a single worthy, there is not a single youngster who will look like the next youngster on his journey that will take us. »

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The program uses a funding model called a social impact bond. Private investors fund the treatment and are reimbursed by the government based on the results of the program. The province will provide up to $2.25 million over three years. This is Manitoba’s first Justice Social Impact Bond.

The province says incarceration and crime have a high “economic and human cost” and that reducing recidivism through this prevention program will help keep communities safe.

“This is a program that, if it works – and I think it has a proven track record – with social innovation funding, can reduce the number of children who reoffend in our community,” said the Prime Minister Heather Stefanson.

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