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As part of the Native Youth at Risk Courtlink Pilot Project, a comprehensive evaluation study was conducted to assess its impact on the participating youth and the effectiveness of the materials and format used.
The study, conducted by an independent researcher, included observing the program at the 5 sites where it was piloted, interviewing teachers and students, recording information from various activities, and collecting quantitative data (e.g., rating scales for the different activities and materials) from students, teachers, observers (e.g., teacher aids, volunteers, etc.), and the participating court personnel.
Results showed that the program had a strong impact on all the participants. In addition, the evaluator reported that all the information and data collected clearly indicates that the Courtlink experience with the curricula and presentation format was very successful and well received by all the student groups. The evaluator concluded his study saying this program stands out for the following reasons:
It was very successful with a wide variance in the student groups and with students who have behavioural and learning difficulties.
Many of the students did not want to be there; however, by the end of the Courtlink they all noted they would come back to another Courtlink and would strongly recommend it to their fellow students.
Very few of the students indicated a positive view of the justice system before the Courtlink and many students expressed a very negative view of the justice system. At the completion of the Courtink experience all but one of two of the students clearly indicated that they had increased knowledge of and respect for the Canadian justice system. The fairness and impartiality of the Canadian justice system particularly impressed them.
There was a clear impact on the students. They observed accused in the courtroom who were being tried for murder, sexual assault, break and enter and a range of other crimes. They recognised the fear, tension and the wide range of human emotions. The real life incidents observed by the students gave them a clear understanding of the fact that the consequences unfolding for the accused were the result of poor decisions and/or of not having given any thought to their actions.”