Town of Essex Council showcases support to Youth Diversion

Screenshot of Youth Diversion website in Windsor, Ont. on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (Courtesy ecyouthdiversion.ca)

During Monday nights Town of Essex council meeting, councillors showed their support in Youth Diversion for young offenders under the age of 18. 

Executive Director of Youth Diversion, Joanna Conrad, provided information and expressed the need for services of Youth Diversion in Essex. 

She explained how they can be referred, explained accountability and youth criminal justice and how Youth Diversion aims to hold young people accountable for their actions while also providing them with tools to make better decisions in the future. 

Council voted unanimously to provide Conrad with support to bring to the OPP Services Meeting at a later date. 

Conrad says Youth Diversion aims to help youth and the community within the county and other regions. 

"Looking at how we can also work together to remove those blinders, and to really start looking at what we can do together to work towards changing those perspectives with respect to youth, youth crime, and how we're going to keep the community safe going forward," she said.

Conrad says there are four steps that officers could take when dealing with a young offender which are verbal warnings, laying a caution, diverting, or laying a charge. 

She says diversion is the best route to take for youth offenders. 

"Essentially it's providing accountability where otherwise there wouldn't be, typically. It's more than providing a warning which is really nothing other than saying, 'don't do it again', but it's also less than them going to court, and now being brought through the Criminal Justice System, where now they are going to be labelled as a young offender."

Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman also showed his support for the initiative, saying he was lucky as a teen and hopes today's youth get that opportunity as well. 

"I used to always say to my kids, 'we've all make mistakes'. I was fortunate to make some mistakes when I was younger and I didn't have to live with it the rest of my life. Not everybody gets that opportunity. So this is one of those things I think it really takes some of those kids that maybe are just on the edge, and you can save them with this."

Following the support of council on Youth Diversion, Conrad will take the support and meet with OPP at a later date on working at providing youth with the opportunity of diversion.