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Needs Profile of Serious and/or Violent Aboriginal Youth in Prison

NCJ Number
Forum on Corrections Research Volume: 14 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2002 Pages: 20-24
Raymond R. Corrado; Irwin M. Cohen
Date Published
September 2002
5 pages
This Canadian study profiled the needs of serious and/or violent incarcerated Aboriginal young offenders.
The findings analyzed were derived from the Vancouver Serious and Violent Incarcerated Young Offenders Study, whose primary objective was to assess the impact of incarceration on a young offender's intentions and decisions to recidivate. The project was conducted at two open and two closed custody facilities in the Greater Vancouver Region, British Columbia. A total of 500 incarcerated young offenders agreed to participate in the study. Subjects participated in one-on-one semistructured interviews that discussed a wide range of issues, including offending history, experiences with all facets of the criminal justice system, education and employment, family life and living situation, drug and/or alcohol use/abuse, physical and mental health, sexual and physical victimization, peers, identity formation, and attitudes toward various sentencing models. Of the 500 participants, 20 percent identified themselves as of Aboriginal descent. Using the cutoff of four or more convictions to establish chronicity, 55 percent of Aboriginal male offenders, and 43 percent of the Aboriginal female offenders were classified as habitual or chronic offenders. Aboriginal serious and/or violent young offenders were multi-problemed youth. They tended to be drug and/or alcohol addicted, had poor commitments to school and employment, came from highly dysfunctional homes, had high rates of mobility, had weak prosocial bonds, were victims of sexual and/or physical abuse, had a myriad of personality and mental disorders, had poor cognitive and interpersonal skills, had delinquent peer groups, and exhibited a chronic offending lifestyle. The needs profiles of the Aboriginal female inmates were more strongly connected to life on the street and the sex trade. The most effective rehabilitative approaches for these young Aboriginal offenders incorporated the traditions and culture of the Aboriginal people. Such treatment strategies might include the use of "sweat lodges," "healing circles," Aboriginal community members as role models or mentors, and "smudging." 2 tables and 10 notes