Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Better place sought for holding intoxicated teens
HOLDING drunk and stoned kids in jail is a last resort, but the cost of a facility specifically for them is prohibitive, the province's justice minister said Monday.
Justice Minister Andrew Swan said the Manitoba Youth Centre (MYC) is the best alternative officials have right now, but the province's department of healthy living has pledged to find a better solution.
"The cost of operating a stand-alone facility would leave everybody scratching their heads. It would be... huge."
The province's ombudsman has decried jailing drunk or high teens in the MYC under the Intoxicated Persons Detention Act (IPDA) for more than a decade. The ombudsman's reports have pointed to overcrowding and safety concerns about the practice since receiving a complaint in 1998.
Swan said the number of intoxicated youths who need care varies greatly from night to night which makes it difficult to fund a community organization to supervise those who have been picked up.
Swan's comments come after Manitoba Justice released statistics that show the number of youths going to jail for being drunk is at a five-year high. Police put 191 youths into the Manitoba Youth Centre for observation from April 1, 2009 to Feb. 26, 2010, the provincial numbers show. That compares to a figure of 115 from April 2005 to April 2006.
Police take intoxicated adults to the Main Street Project, but the agency does not accept youth.
In 2006, Marymound, a non-profit agency that works with at-risk youth, opened a five-bed youth drug unit, but it's not for teens arrested for public intoxication.
Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard said he's appalled at how the province has handled the ombudsman's continued critiques.