When a youth is found guilty in court, they may be given a community-based sentence where the youth is ordered to participate in programming/services via:

  • community services
  • attendance centres
  • restorative justice or
  • probation supervision

There is also the option of a custody sentence where the youth is ordered by the court to be placed in a youth justice facility.

While in custody, youth have access to education, counselling and other programs and supports.

In both community-based and custody sentences, youth have supervision and access to support for their mental health care.

Your rights and responsibilities - Pamphlet

Community-based sentences

There are several types of community-based sentences, including:

  • community service
  • restorative justice
  • probation supervision

There are also 45 community-based programs for Indigenous youth who are in conflict with the law.

Learn more by contacting your regional office.

Community service

Community service is a way to support rehabilitation and provide youth with an opportunity to engage positively in the community. The court can order up to 240 hours of community service to be completed within 12 months.

Community service work could be at a:

  • non-profit local community centre
  • community event
  • as part of a community improvement project

Attendance centres

Attendance centres provide support and services that may respond to a youth’s unique needs. Programs can last up to 240 hours in six months.

Programs are offered from Monday to Saturday, during the day and evening.

At an attendance centre youth can:

  • talk to other youth about similar challenges
  • talk to family members
  • get support with drug and alcohol challenges
  • get tutoring support
  • learn how to find a job

Restorative justice

Restorative justice programs focus on repairing the harm done to victims and the community. These programs hold youth accountable for their behaviour and help them understand the impact of their actions.

Restorative justice is a voluntary, community-based response to the youth’s actions that brings together the individual youth, the victims, the youth’s family, and the community.

Some types of restorative practices include:

  • community or family group conferencing
  • victim offender mediation
  • healing circles support
  • youth justice committees/community justice circles

Probation supervision

A youth who is sentenced to probation with supervision will be monitored and supervised by a probation officer in the community to meet the conditions set by the court.

What the probation officer will do

A probation officer will meet with the youth and develop a plan so that the youth can address the issues that contributed to their offending behaviour.

The probation officer:

  • works collaboratively with parents, guardians, families, community service providers and the youth
  • meets regularly with the youth
  • collaborates with the youth to identify goals and develops a plan for meeting the goals
  • helps with accessing education and skills training
  • can refer the youth to an attendance centre or other programs

The probation officer also monitors if the youth follows the conditions of probation that the court has ordered. The probation officer has the legal authority to charge youth who do not meet their probation conditions.

Your rights and responsibilities - Community poster

Custody sentence

A judge may order a custody sentence where a youth would be placed at a youth justice custody facility. The decision to order a custody sentence would consider a number of factors, including the seriousness of the offence and prior findings of guilt.

Types of youth custody facilities

There are open and secure youth custody facilities.

Open custody youth facilities are generally smaller residences located in the community where youth can have access to staff supervised programming in the community.

Secure custody youth facilities are generally larger sites, which have higher security measures (for example, fences around the property) and youth access to the community is generally facilitated only where approved.

Programs and services

Both open and secure youth custody facilities offer supportive educational and rehabilitative programs and activities.

Staff at the facility work with youth to create an individual plan and identify appropriate programs and services.

Participation in programs and services helps youth stay active, learn new skills, contribute to their rehabilitation and help reduce the likelihood they will re-offend.

Programs can be about:

  • decision making and problem solving
  • victim awareness
  • education
  • dealing with substance abuse issues
  • self-control and anger counselling
  • learning basic life skills, such as how to express feelings and listen to others
  • playing sports and other recreation
  • taking part in social programs

A probation officer is involved during a youth’s custody sentence to help plan a successful return and reintegration into the community once the youth is released. Parents and/or guardians can be a key support for youth and are encouraged to participate in planning for the youth.

Indigenous facilities

Ontario funds a secure custody facility for Indigenous youth in conflict with the law that is operated by Indigenous partners.

Supports and services specific to Indigenous youth are also accessible in other youth justice facilities and programs.

Re-entering the community

To help with reintegration, the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act requires that all youth who have a custody sentence must serve a portion of it in the community. The custody sentence will include a portion of the sentence to be served in a secure or open custody facility followed by a period of supervision and support in the community.

Community supervision is generally one third of the total sentence length, depending on the type of offence.

When a youth is released from a custody facility, they are supervised by a probation officer for the remaining community supervision portion of their sentence. To reduce the risk of reoffending, supervision will focus on education, employment, home life and community. The period of community supervision might also include participation in programming and services that will support their transition into the community.

Youth in custody or detention

Youth have access to education

Continuing their education while in custody/detention helps prepare youth to return and integrate back into the community successfully. Local school boards deliver educational programs for youth while placed in custody facilities.

Depending on the size of the facility a youth is in, they may attend:

  • a school with teachers, assistants and a principal
  • a single classroom with a teacher

All education programs follow the Ontario curriculum. Facilities may also have a range of programs that support education and skills training. These programs include:

  • tutoring
  • getting skilled trades certificates
  • career preparation

Learn about programs and courses that can help youth stay in school:

Learn about programs and courses that will help youth prepare for work and career:

Youth have rights and responsibilities

Youth need to know what rights and responsibilities they have while in custody or detention. When admitted to a youth justice facility, youth are advised of their rights and responsibilities. They are also informed about the process on how to identify concerns or complaints in the facility and/or with the Ontario Ombudsman.

Youth in a youth custody/detention facility have the right to:

  • participate in planning for their return to the community
  • have a say in decisions about their medical treatment, education, religion and discharge
  • religious practice
  • reasonable privacy
  • freedom from physical punishment
  • medical and dental care
  • education, training or work programs based on their interests and abilities
  • proper, quality clothing that fits and is appropriate for different activities and the weather
  • well-balanced meals

Youth have rights to privacy when communicating with a parent or guardian, other family members, a lawyer or anyone representing them including, but not limited to, the right to:

  • send and receive written correspondence, that is not read, examined or censored by another person, with some limited exceptions
  • receive visits from, or speak by telephone with a parent or guardian, other family members, a lawyer or anyone representing them, with limited exceptions
  • receive visits from the Ontario Ombudsman, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, or the Parliament of Canada

Youth have the right to apply to the Custody Review Board (CRB), which hears applications and makes recommendations about the placement of youth in custody or detention. More specifically, youth can apply to the CRB for a review of decisions relating to their:

  • placement in a particular facility
  • transfer from open custody to secure custody
  • the denial of their request for a reintegration leave

Legislative references to these rights and more details can be found in:

There are rules for visiting at a youth justice facility.

In general, visits at a youth justice facility are in a room that is supervised for safety and security. Each youth justice facility has rules about visits, but generally visitors will have to:

  • be approved prior to the visit
  • show identification
  • sign in a visitor’s log
  • leave personal things in lockers or with staff during the visit
  • not give or receive any items from the youth without the approval of staff

Staff at the facility will be able to provide information about visits, scheduling, and procedures so visitors will know what to expect when they arrive at the facility.

Your rights and responsibilities - Custody poster

Your rights and responsibilities

Additional support

Specialized services

There are a range of culturally relevant youth justice programs and services that are available in Ontario for Indigenous youth in custody, detention and in the community. These include diversion programs, restorative justice, probation services, mental health and wellness services and reintegration supports that are delivered by Indigenous organizations.

In addition, Ontario has one secure custody and detention facility that is designed, built and operated with Indigenous services providers for First Nations, Inuit or Métis youth in conflict with the law.

Youth with mental health needs have access to a range of mental health programs and support based on individualized needs or through a court order and may include:

Through the development of an individualized case management plan that is done in consultation with the youth, family and the case management team, mental health and wellness considerations are an important part of the process, so that the youth’s mental health needs are being effectively and meaningfully met.

For more information on mental health services and support services in detention facilities, youth and family can speak with the youth’s probation officer.