Bridging the Conceptualization of Youth with Intellectual Disabilities to Sentencing under the YCJA
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The current study examined how disability and the concepts of risk, need and responsivity are understood by criminal justice professionals and inform their perceptions of young offenders with ID at sentencing under the ‘different but equal’ philosophy. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 lawyers and 8 mental health workers across 6 major urban areas in Ontario. Participants primarily perceived ID through a medical discourse, overlooking social and structural barriers that, in some cases, may hinder adherence to sentencing dispositions. Specifically, participants discussed balancing the reduced culpability of offenders (e.g., intent) – justifying lenient sentencing – with public safety concerns (i.e., ID viewed as a barrier to rehabilitation) – justifying increasing the severity of sentences. Participants assessed clients with ID and their risks, needs and responsivity within the context of other legal factors: criminal history, severity of the offence, and YCJA objectives. Participants articulated the importance of tailored courthouse identification programs, services/funding, and education/training.