Status offenders in Manitoba : hidden systems of social control

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Lothian, E. Jane
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The purpose of this study was to examine status offenders in the Province of Manitoba. Divestiture of status offenders occurred with the passage of the Young Offenders Act in 1984. However, there was little Canadian research on status offenders from which to assess the impact of this reform in juvenile law. The research included a two part archival analysis of juvenile and family court dockets and individual court file data from 1940 to 1975. To supplement the information generated from the archival research, fourteen in-person interviews were conducted with professionals in child welfare, juvenile corrections, and adolescent mental health. The findings of the archival analysis indicated that the population of status offenders changed dramatically between 1950 and 1975 in terms of the variables 'specific status offense', 'sex', and 'primary disposition.' The dispositions received by these youths remained consistant in terms of the 'non-punitive' nature of the judicial sanctions applied. Findings from the in-person interviews indicated that the most significant reforms pertaining to the status offender poulation occurred in 1979 when status offenders were redefined as 'child welfare cases' and redistributed to the child welfare system. Similar to the status offender reform efforts in the United States, the processes of relabeling, system shifting and benign neglect were found to have occurred. The conclusions of this study point to the importance of using an integrated approach in planning and evaluating changes in services for adolescents.