The Case of Andrew
Age at the time of the crime: 16 (Current age 17)
Andrew was born on 14th July 1996 in Abbotsford British Columbia to James and Catherine, both Canadian citizens by birth, although Andrew’s paternal parents were black French immigrants. Andrew’s family was however forced to relocate Vancouver when Andrew was just 8 years old, after the father had been arrested and charged with armed robbery in November of 2004. He was found guilty and sentenced to 6 years in prison. In a bid to protect him from the stigma that Andrew would undoubtedly be subjected to and also fend for her family, Catherine opted to move to Vancouver. Catherine, in a bid to further protect Andrew and herself, successfully filed for a divorce and full custody after the conclusion of James’ hearing in 2005. Although there were no financial problems at first, Catherine found it hard to support the family of two on her own, a situation made worse by her addiction to alcohol as from late 2008. According to Andrew, the lack of support from both his paternal and maternal grandparents, by choice in the case of the former, but as punishment in the case of the latter, due to Catherine’s choice to marry someone they did not approve of. These family dynamics combined to create a very difficult environment for Andrew. To add to a difficult environment and unbearable circumstances at home, Andrew also found fitting into his new surroundings a bit difficult, mainly due to his ethnic background (Cullen & Agnew, 2002). As a bi-racial, Andrew found it very difficult to fit in from a very early age, as in most cases, both sides of the divide feel uncomfortable associating with him. This has resulted in name calling, bullying, and at times outright discrimination. This has meant that school has been a difficult place for Andrew to be, a factor that played a key role in his decision to quit school aged just 14 in 2010 after completing his elementary education. After quitting school, he did some menial jobs before “needs” forced him into a life of crime in late 2010. Initially, Andrew claims all he did was engage in petty theft and pick pocketing, before graduating to burglary. His big career break however, came in mid 2011 when he joined the Red Scorpions gang; already an established gang at the time, after being introduced by a friend he refused to name. He then started distributing and selling drugs. Mostly he admits to selling marijuana to other school children, as well as selling cocaine on a few instances, though he claims he has never abused drugs. He was arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute in late November 2012.
Andrew attended Abbotsford Elementary School, between 2000 and 2004, before transferring to False Creek Elementary school in Vancouver, following their move from Abbotsford. He therefore, studied the latter parts of his elementary education in False Creek, which he joined in Grade 4, leaving in Grade 8 in 2010. As part of the condition for his sentence, Andrew has been forced to rejoin high school in 2013, and is currently attending Century High School, in the hope of receiving a diploma in 2017. In the future, Andrew hopes to pursue a degree in Counseling and Psychology at Vancouver Community College.
Due to difficulties fitting in as a bi-racial and part of a minority, Andrew has over the years found it very difficult to develop community connections. Although he admits to having a soft spot for basketball, the situation he encountered in elementary school made it very difficult for him to seriously participate in team sports, a phobia that he seemingly carried on into his interactions within the community. Out of shame and a need to keep their family’s affairs private due to his mother’s struggles with alcohol, and the potential involvement of child services with the discovery of the true situation at home, Andrew opted to keep a very low profile within the community. Andrew even admits to finding it very difficult to rejoin the community and develop proper connections, although he does admit that the fact that his mother successfully beat her addiction in March last year has made things a lot easier. Andrew has however joined a group within the community to help provide support to children who feel they do not fit in, in one way or another, due to race, academic performance, and appearance amongst other attributes. This step he claims was motivated by the realization of the importance of support systems and guidance, especially in the lives of those who struggle to fit in, regardless of their reasons for not fitting in.
Throughout our interview, Andrew came across as a character with good listening and communication skills. Further, despite his protests, he also appeared to possess very good presentation skills. Andrew himself admits to being confident, and to possessing good listening skills, particularly active listening. Due to his experiences, Andrew claims that, he is also a very empathetic individual, a skill he claims to have developed due to the fact that he can relate to what most people go through, especially the other youths in his support group.
Areas of Improvement:
Due to his experiences as a child and growing up, Andrew admits that he finds it very difficult to trust other people: which makes it very difficult to socialize. He therefore, feels that his social skills are not as good as they should be, especially considering his level of self confidence and good communication skills.
Peer Group Dynamics:
As already indicated above, Andrew finds relating with his peers harder than it should be. While he attributes part of these difficulties to his experiences growing up, more so to the difficulties fitting in, he also credits his current legal status as a juvenile delinquent for some of the difficulties (Axelrod, 1997). He however, claims that in a way, it keeps him on his toes, as he finds it much easier to relate with the other youths in his support group.
Conflict with the Law:
Andrew was arrested and charged in November 2012 for possession with intent. He was arrested while in the process of selling marijuana to 3 students at a coffee shop. He was therefore, charged with possession with intention to distribute before a youth court. Sentencing was done using the Youth Criminal Justice Act, section 42(2)(p). This was due to the fact that it was Andrew’s first offence, as well as the fact that he was a minor going through difficult circumstances of neglect and abuse. Further, the fact that Andrew was only found with marijuana, as opposed to other hard narcotics like cocaine or heroin, also helped tremendously.
Andrew was sentenced to a deferred custody and supervision sentence of 6 months, with the conditions being that he joins a support group, continues his studies and avoids engaging in any other criminal activity or risk serving part of the sentence in custody. These strict mandatory conditions were instituted based on subsections 105 (2) and (3). Further, a provincial director charged with supervising Andrew, to who he was to report to periodically, was assigned to him (Endres, 2004).
Although it is still too early to tell the exact outcome of the sentence and interventions employed, the fact that Andrew has been forced to rejoin school is definitely a step in the right direction.
Clearly, the interventions used were all aimed at ensuring rehabilitation and reintegration into the society. Further, the sentence also attempts to limit the effect the application of the tag of juvenile delinquent could do to the offender, more so considering that it was his first offence. Rehabilitation, it is hoped, will be achieved through the threat of punishment, as the sentence is deferred and any bad behavior could result in the offender being taken into custody, not to mention the fact that the offender is now answerable to the provincial director (Mccaslin, 2005). Reintegration efforts include the move to have Andrew rejoin school, as well as join a support group. The effects of these interventions are yet to be witnessed, as the interventions are barely 3 weeks old, although the most significant one of note is Andrew’s decision to rejoin high school and continue with his education.
All the problems expressed by Andrew, indicate that his delinquent behavior is the result of neglect, as well as a lack of social control. There is therefore, a need to enforce closer external control, as well as provide a role model for him to emulate, both tasks the mother must take up. In addition, encouraging the mother to resolve issues she may have with her husband, he parents in law, as well as her own parents, could go a long way towards helping resolve the family issues at the root of Andrew’s negative behavior. In line with this, perhaps the best program for Andrew and his family to participate in is the family support program provided by the John Howard Society of North Island (Vancouver Island, n.d).
Axelrod, P. (1997). The Promise of Schooling: Education in Canada, 1800-1914.
Cullen & Agnew (2002). Criminological Theories
Endres, K. (2004). The Youth Criminal Justice Act: The New Face of Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice System. Family Court Review. 42(3). pp. 526–539
Mccaslin, W. (2005). Justice as Healing: Indigenous Ways. Washington DC: Living Justice Press.
Vancouver Island (n.d). Youth Justice Programs. Retrieved from www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/youth…/pdf/youth_justice_booklet07.pdf