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Adult and youth correctional services: Key indicators

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The Daily

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Canada's rate of incarceration increased for the first time in more than a decade in 2005/2006, driven by the growth in the number of adults being held in custody while awaiting trial or sentencing.

The average number of young people aged 12 to 17 in custody, on the other hand, continued its decline since the enactment of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) in 2003.

Canada's incarceration rate moved upward slightly from 107 to 110 prisoners per 100,000 population, a 2% increase. Although this increase was a departure from the slow, steady decline since 1995/1996, the rate was still 17% lower than that recorded a decade earlier.

On any given day in 2005/2006, an average of 33,123 adults and 1,987 youth were in custody in Canada, for a total of 35,110 inmates, 3% more than in 2004/2005.

Canada's incarceration rate tends to be higher than most western European countries, yet far lower than that of the United States. For instance, Sweden posted an incarceration rate of 82 and France a rate of 85 per 100,000 population in 2005/2006. By comparison, the incarceration rate in England and Wales was 148, and in the United States the adult rate stood at 738 (the United States excludes youth from its rate).

Adults held while awaiting trial or sentencing outnumber sentenced offenders in provincial/territorial correctional facilities

The number of adults in remand (i.e., held in provincial or territorial custody while awaiting trial or sentencing) has been growing steadily since the mid-1980s and grew 12% in 2005/2006 to reach 10,670 adults.

Note to readers

Data in this release were collected by the Corrections Key Indicator Report (CKIR) for Adults and Young Offenders. Typically, correctional officials perform daily counts in their facilities and monthly counts of offenders under community supervision and report this information to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) by way of the CKIR.

Incarcerated people are those serving a custodial sentence and those in remand (i.e., in custody awaiting trial or sentencing) or other temporary detention (e.g., immigration hold).

The national incarceration rate is the average daily number of incarcerated adults and youth for every 100,000 people in the total population.

Prince Edward Island, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories were unable to provide complete CKIR counts. As such, totals exclude these jurisdictions to allow for national comparisons from 2004/2005 to 2005/2006.

In comparison, 9,570 adults were being held in provincial or territorial sentenced custody, virtually unchanged from the previous year. The number of sentenced offenders in provincial/territorial custody dropped steadily from 1994/1995 to 2004/2005.

As a result of the growing number of adults in remand and the declining number in sentenced custody, in 2005/2006 adults in remand for the first time outnumbered convicted offenders serving a sentence of imprisonment in provincial or territorial institutions.

All jurisdictions have witnessed their adult prison population steadily shift to one that is increasingly in remand. Over the past 10 years, the proportion in remand has approximately doubled in most jurisdictions. However, the mix of sentenced and remand varies among the jurisdictions. In 2005/2006, the proportion of prisoners in remand ranged from just over 60% in Ontario and Manitoba to just over 25% in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Offenders who serve a sentence of less than two years are the responsibility of provincial and territorial governments, as are those held in remand or other temporary detention.

Several factors might explain why remand counts are rising relative to sentenced counts. For instance, court cases have become more complex, resulting in longer processing times and, consequently, longer stays on remand. For example, in 1994/1995, about 34% of those in remand were being held for more than one week; by 2004/2005, this proportion had grown to 45%. Longer stays mean higher average counts.

Also, offenders are spending less time in sentenced custody because courts are giving credit for time spent in remand when determining sentence length. This, in turn, decreases counts of sentenced custody.

Number of youth in custody continue to decline

In 2005/2006, just over 1,100 young offenders on average were in sentenced custody on any given day, a drop of about 12% from 2004/2005 and a 58% decline from 2002/2003, the year before the YCJA went into effect.

These changes reflect the fact that the numbers of youth charged by police, appearing in court and being sentenced to custody have all declined since the YCJA took effect.

Diversion of less serious youth crimes and first-time offenders away from the court process is one of the principles of the YCJA and has contributed to the declines in the number of youth in custody and under community supervision.

In the five years prior to the YCJA, the number of sentenced youth in custody had fallen, decreasing 28% during this period; however, the decline from the year prior to the implementation of the YCJA to 2005/2006 has been more dramatic, as indicated.

In 2005/2006, the average number of young people held in remand while awaiting trial or sentencing decreased 7% from the previous year to 848.

Provincial parole counts up for first time in over a decade

The number of adults on provincial parole grew 14% in 2005/2006. This was the first increase after 11 years of decline, and was attributable mostly to increases in Quebec.

Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia are the only provinces to administer provincial parole.

The average number of offenders on federal parole decreased 2% to about 3,700 in 2005/2006. The number of day paroles remained unchanged, while the number of offenders supervised on statutory release declined 4%.

The vast majority of offenders under community supervision were on probation.

Among adults, the average number of offenders on probation was unchanged and the counts have fluctuated very little each year since 1998/1999.

Number of adults on conditional sentences stabilized

The average number of adult offenders serving a conditional sentence grew by 1% to 14,035 in 2005/2006.

Conditional sentences were implemented in 1996. They allow for a sentence of imprisonment to be served in the community under strict conditions, thus reducing the reliance on incarceration.

The use of conditional sentences increased steadily in the seven years after their implementation, but has been relatively stable since 2003.

Number of young offenders on probation continued to fall

Like custody counts, the number of young offenders on probation has declined steadily since the implementation of the YCJA; in 2005/2006, the total fell 12% to about 18,600.

Several factors could be contributing to the decline in probation counts. One is the diversion of minor and first-time offences away from the court process. Another is that the new legislation requires the final third of most custody sentences be served in the community under supervision. This mandatory time in the community may be replacing sentences of probation.

The YCJA also introduced the sentencing option of "deferred custody and supervision," which is similar to conditional sentencing for adults. The average month-end count of young offenders on deferred custody was 594, a decrease of almost 1%.

Available on CANSIM: tables 251-0004 to 251-0006, 251-0008.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3313.

For more information or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, please contact Information and Client Services (toll-free 1-800-387-2231; 613-951-9023), Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

Tables. Table(s).