Wellness court reduces criminal relapses: report

A detailed study of Yukon's Community Wellness Court has concluded that the program is helping to reduce repeat offenders.

A detailed study of Yukon’s Community Wellness Court has concluded that the program is helping to reduce repeat offenders.

The court, created in 2007, targets offenders who struggle with drug and alcohol addictions, mental health problems or cognitive disabilities such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

Once someone has pleaded guilty and been accepted into the court, an individual wellness plan is created. They get various types of counselling and other supports and check in with the court on a regular basis.

Sentencing takes place after that’s complete, which typically takes 18 months to two years, or the person has quit the program.

The 88-page report looked at data from 2007 until the end of 2013.

Twenty-six clients completed the program and were sentenced. That’s about a quarter of the people who started.

But considering only those who have been in the program long enough to finish it, the report concludes that’s actually a completion rate of 38 per cent.

The program “has been very successful at reducing reoffending and enhancing the safety of Yukon communities, particularly Whitehorse, by reducing the risk of CWC clients to reoffend,” according to the report.

“I think the court itself helps to spark that difference, but the individuals themselves at some point want to change their lives too,” said therapeutic court co-ordinator Tanya MacKenzie.

The report compares people who completed the program to those who only made it partway through. It has no comparable statistics for people outside of the wellness court.

In some cases it breaks down the numbers even further, splitting up people who left the program before and after they started a wellness plan.

Only 12 per cent of the clients who completed wellness court were charged with new substantive offences after they left. Only four per cent got new administrative charges like parole violations.

Twenty-nine per cent of the people who left before beginning a wellness plan reoffended with substantive charges. The number is 31 per cent for those who left after starting a wellness plan.

People who completed the program came to court with an average of 3.1 substantive charges and 1.3 administrative charges. After they finished the program they accumulated, on average, 0.2 new substantive charges and 1.2 new administrative charges.

“I always look at those who partially complete and fully complete as successful,” MacKenzie said.

One client was a man who had been involved in the justice system for 43 years, often coming to court with seven to 10 charges each time he was in front of a judge, she said.

He completed the program “and is two years out and he is still quite successful not reintroducing himself into our system.”

That also means he’s not accessing the RCMP, ambulance, hospital or arrest processing unit.

The report also shed lights on the kind of help that people got through the program.

The most common service used was individual counselling, accessed by 74 per cent of completed clients and 65 per cent of partially completed clients.

First Nation clients make up about 58 per cent of people who come to wellness court.

Almost three-quarters of the aboriginal clients who completed the program made contact with First Nations during that time. That’s compared to just over 40 per cent of the partially completed First Nation clients.

For those clients who received substance-abuse treatment programs, 96 per cent of the completed clients were rated as having made significant progress in dealing with their substance abuse issues while in the program, compared to 53 per cent of the partially completed clients.

“We’re really trying to make those initial connections with the hopes that once they’re out of the justice system they have all these supports in place, so they’re not coming back to us again,” MacKenzie said.

The report was released after the program secured stable core funding for the next three years.

The Yukon government gives around $450,000 a year. An additional $100,000 comes from the federal government.

Contact Ashley Joannou at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read