Youth Custody in BC

A small percentage of youth that have been charged with or found guilty of an offence in B.C. are sent to youth custody centres – facilities designed for young people who:

  • Are placed in custody while they wait for a court appearance
  • Have been sentenced by the court

Youth custody centres provide safe, secure and appropriate custody of youth. They have programs to help young people:

  • Avoid criminal behaviour
  • Successfully return back to life in their community

There are two Youth Custody Centres in B.C. – in Burnaby and Prince George.

Types of Custody

Depending on the situation, a youth may be classified to either open or secure custody.

Open custody may be ordered if the court believes you will respect basic rules and privileges and do not require the level of security found in secure custody.

Secure custody is ordered if you require a higher level of security. Secure custody is usually for youth found guilty of committing a serious crime, who have a pattern of committing crimes or who are not suitable for open custody supervision.

The type of custody depends on several factors, including:

  • The seriousness and nature of the crime
  • Previous court history
  • Previous behaviour while in custody
  • Previous response to serving a sentence in the community under supervision
  • The needs and circumstances of the young person

Programs and Services

Each youth in custody is helped to find suitable programs and services to help them prepare for release back into the community.

There are four types of programs for youth in custody:

  • Basic
  • Core
  • Specialized
  • Reintegration

Once you are released from custody, other community-based programs will be available to you. Here are a few examples:

  • Programs designed to meet basic needs like going to school, going to the doctor or dentist, participating in religious activities, exercising, doing a hobby or visiting with family
  • Structured programs like drug and alcohol counselling, mental health support, life skills coaching or employment readiness
  • Specialized programs like psychiatric treatment for youth who have committed violent or sexual offences
  • Community-based programs that support the transition back to daily life

What to Expect

If you’re going into custody, you will be expected to follow these basic community expectations:

  • Keep yourself and your room clean
  • Follow direction, attend programs and participate in activities
  • Follow the rules of the centre and respect all property
  • Treat staff and other youth with respect - there is no tolerance for physical, sexual or abusive behaviour towards others
  • Do not have items that you are not allowed to have
  • Ensure your own safety and that of others
  • Let someone know if you need help
  • Participate in planning activities related to your time in custody and your release

If you do not follow the community expectations, you may:

  • Be asked to offer an apology
  • Have to pay for damages caused to property
  • Be asked to participate in mediation or a restorative justice process
  • Lose privileges
  • Be sent to your room (for up to 2 hours)
  • Be transferred to another room, unit or centre
  • Have trips cancelled

When you arrive: Any personal items or clothing you have will be placed into storage and you will be searched. The custody centre will provide clothing and personal care items like soap, shampoo, toothpaste and a toothbrush.

Privacy: There are cameras in every custody centre - there are no cameras in bedrooms, bathrooms or showers. Staff will do their best to respect privacy. Any information you share will be kept confidential unless staff are required to share it by law. Updates on how you’re doing will be shared with your community youth probation officer and your care team.

Health care: Your health is important so feel free to ask the staff if you need something specific. You will also be able to talk privately with a nurse or doctor about medications or health concerns.

Phone calls and visits: You will be allowed to have access to speak privately with a lawyer, friends, guardians and family members who have been authorized by the centre. You will need to ask permission to schedule phone, video or in person visits. If your family does not live nearby, the centre can help coordinate other options so that you can see them. For more information, see the Family Visitation Financial Support Program pamphlet.

Daily life: When moving around the centre, you will be told where to go and staff will take you to each location. You may be locked in your room during staff breaks. There are set times for meals, chores and programs - here’s an example of a typical day at the custody centre:

Youth Custody Schedule
Time Activity
7:00 am Wake up and get ready
Meet for breakfast
Room inspection
8:15 am Day program (e.g. school, recreation, counselling, etc.)
11:30 am Meet for lunch
12:40 pm Afternoon program
4:30 pm Meet for dinner
8:30-10:00 pm Evening program
Time to discuss how you did for the day
Get ready for bed

The weekend schedule is slightly different with an option to sleep-in until 10:00am.
During the night, staff will check your room to make sure you are okay.

Information for parents, guardians and families: Young people who have committed offences are better able to have positive outcomes when their parents, guardians or families are involved in the rehabilitation process and available to offer support. If a young person in your care is in custody, you can be sure that the staff there will:

  • —Treat you with respect
  • Help you stay connected with visits in person, by secure video link or by phone
  • —Provide updates on progress and achievements
  • —Give you immediate notice about any serious injuries or illness
  • —Address your concerns in a timely manner

Release Planning

If you are sentenced to youth custody, you will be assigned a youth probation officer or case management officer who will work with you while you serve your sentence.

When you are serving part of your sentence in custody, your youth probation officer or case management officer will prepare a program for you to follow when you are released into the community.

As with all custodial sentences, the last portion of your sentence will be served in the community, under supervision. When you serve this part of your sentence, your youth probation officer will supervise you and provide ongoing support. Your youth probation officer will assist you with following the conditions of your release and will help you carry out your plan to move back into the community, as a law-abiding member.