Creating Alternatives for Young Offenders in Toronto
Referrals to PACT come from Crown attorneys (prosecutors), probation officers, and judges. To be eligible for the programme the young offender must take responsibility for his/her actions and agree to participate. Offences that can be referred to the programme include
- Assault with a weapon
- Low-medium-level & domestic-related assaults
- Break/enter, possession of stolen property
- Threaten bodily harm
- Carry concealed weapon
- Fraud under $5000 & theft under $5000
- Public mischief & extortion
To offer a holistic response to youth offenders, PACT provides three levels of assistance. The first level is the resolution conference, based on the healing circle model. The conference brings the young offender together with those affected by the crime and develops an intervention plan. Participants can include the arresting office, victims, the young offender, his/her parents and other concerned individuals. They discuss the crime and its impact on their lives.
The resolution contract resulting from conferences may include an apology letter or thematic essay, community service, and/or rehabilitation programmes such as anger management. If the young offender does not fulfil the contract the case is sent back to court.
PACT’s second level of service is the Lifeskills and Community Service programme. This programme offers young offenders an opportunity to learn new skills and find a connection for the community. Currently, PACT offers five different ‘schools’
- Power-of-One Film School
- PACTROCK music program
- Urban Reforestation Program
- Main Course Cooking School
- Magic Program
Each school runs for six weeks with participants producing a service for the community. In the PACT Main Course Cooking School, for example, participants learn about nutrition, food and cooking techniques while working with professional chefs. At the end of the six week programme, the young offenders prepare a full meal for a marginalized people in the community such as residents from a senior citizens home.
In the film programme, the young offenders learn about vidoegraphy and production techniques. Their service project is to produce a film to be used as a public service announcement.
Referrals to the PACT Lifeskills and Community Service programme come from both the PACT Resolution Conferences and the courts.
The third level of assistance is the LifePlan and Coaching Program. This programme serves young offenders who are leaving detention and/or are considered to be at a high risk of reoffending. Referral may be a part of a sentence or probation order. The programme consists of several elements:
- Life Plan conference in which the young offenders, with support from programme staff and others, create a plan to address their needs.
- One-year commitment to attend bi-weekly meetings with a PACT Coach addressing individual needs and group dynamics.
Typical offender needs include health and wellness, employment and/or educational goals, and personal mentoring. The group dynamics activities consist of guest speakers, workshops, recreational activities, field trips and participation in PACT community service projects.
Founded in 2002, the PACT Youth Crime Prevention Programme operates without government funding. It has developed a growing network of local business, service clubs and a small number of large corporations to meet its funding needs.
In 2006 PACT was recognized by the Urban Leadership Program in the category of city initiatives.