Regina Connected Youth Program
The program supported sentenced offenders to help them reintegrate into the community and rehabilitate. Specifically, the program was aimed at offenders of both genders, between the ages of 15 and 24, who lived in Regina and were facing barriers to reintegration and rehabilitation. The young people were assessed as having a significant risk of reoffending. They were also assessed as having some degree of gang affiliation but were not fully immersed in the gang lifestyle.
The three-year program was carried out by the Regina Street Culture Kidz Project Inc. It was funded by the Saskatchewan Department of Corrections and Public Safety and Justice Canada. It cost $704,000 and treated 34 people.
The program had several aims:
- to improve the participant’s connection to positive resources in the community;
- to reduce the participant’s risk for gang involvement; and
- to reduce the participant’s risk of reoffending.
Several inter-related risk factors may lead young people to re-offending, including: no steady employment; incomplete education; problematic family circumstances; few positive peer connections; lack of appropriate leisure and recreational activities; substance abuse; and a pro-crime attitude or orientation.
Each participant was matched with a personal mentor who helped the young person develop an individual action plan and work towards identified goals. Program staff provided intensive support and supervision. The service and support activities provided were determined based on the areas of risk identified for each young person.
The mentors liaised with school officials and/or employers, helped participants connect to positive leisure activities, assisted with access to addiction services, helped develop problem-solving skills, helped establish positive family and/or peer relationships, assisted in acquiring and maintaining an appropriate residence, and responded to participants in times of personal crisis.
The program was assessed by the Saskatchewan Department of Corrections and Public Safety through interviews with key program personnel, review of client files, review of database records concerning re-offending, and observation of the program.
The program was consistent with the original intent and purpose. It was effective in helping participants make important new connections with appropriate community responses. The two most used resources were educational/employment resources and substance abuse resources.
Of the participants:
- 85% were between the ages of 15 to 18;
- 32% were female offenders; and
- 80% were of Aboriginal descent.
The two primary components in reducing risk for gang involvement were “one-on-one mentorship” and “engaging youth in a variety of recreational and community service activities.”
The majority of participants were assessed as having a 75% or greater likelihood of reoffending without intervention. The program appears to have been successful in bringing 50% of participants to sentence expiry without reoffending.
The significance of matching each participant with a personal adult mentor cannot be overstated. The program offered a genuine connection for the participant. Numerous examples of participants contacting their mentor in times of crisis were identified. Crisis response at non‑traditional hours was significant for some participants. Action-oriented recreational activities such as laser-tag, bowling or wall climbing met the participants’ need for excitement and challenge and an opportunity to engage in non-risky social activities.
The preliminary data relating to re-offending was impressive. The program reduced gang involvement and improved community connectedness.
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