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Seguin Akinsanya, centre, Executive Director of the Bright Future Alliance, poses at a drop in centre in Scarborough, April 19, 2011.

J.P. Moczulki/The Globe and Mail/J.P. Moczulki/The Globe and Mail

Canada has higher youth incarceration rates than almost all other OECD countries. And critics charge that's poised to go higher with new federal legislation that would expand the crimes for which young people go to jail and the amount of time they spend there.

Jurisdictions around the world are going in the opposite direction: In the UK, a decade spent targeting diversion, rehabilitation and prevention has paid off in declining youth crime rates, fewer young people going to jail and fewer of them reoffending once they're out. The state of Texas has gone from 15 youth custody centres five years ago to six as of next month, as it closes institutions because they're no longer needed. In Australia, efforts to lower the numbers of youth going to jail have also paid off.

Statistics indicate young people who go to jail are less likely to get jobs when they get out - and, if anything, more likely to reoffend. Children's advocates in Canada argue what's needed here is a focus on keeping younger criminals out of jail -- and devoting more resources to it.

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Nick Bala is a law professor at Queen's University, specializing in youth justice and family law. He will be joining us for a live chat to answer your questions.

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