Female inmates, Aboriginal inmates, and inmates serving life sentences: A one day snapshot - ARCHIVED

Articles and reports: 85-002-X19990058300


This Juristat profiles three populations of inmates: women, Aboriginal people and individuals serving life sentences. These data are based on a census of adult inmates on register in all adult correctional facilities as of midnight October 5th, 1996. Data were obtained through administrative records.

While the general population in Canada was made up almost equally of men and women, women comprised only 5% of prisoners in correctional facilities on October 5, 1996. Female inmates tended to be in their early 30s, single, with grade 9 education or less, and unemployed at the time of admission. They were considered at lower risk to re-offend than men.

Aboriginal people were over-represented in the prison system. Although they comprised only 2% of the general adult population, they accounted for 17% of the prison population. They were younger on average than non-Aboriginal inmates, had less education and were more likely to have been unemployed. They were also considered at higher risk to re-offend, and they had a higher set of needs than non-Aboriginal inmates (including, substance abuse, employment, personal needs and family/marital needs).

The data also showed that as of midnight October 5th, 1996, inmates serving a life sentence comprised nearly one-fifth (18%) of the nearly 13,900 inmates in federal prisons. A person can be given a life sentence if they have been convicted of offences such as first degree or second-degree murder. Parole eligibility varies from minimum ten years served to minimum 25 years served.

Individuals serving life sentences tended to be older and less educated than others in the prison population. The median age for lifers on snapshot day was 39, compared with 33 for other inmates. More than one-half (56%) of lifers had a grade 9 education or less, compared with 44% of other inmates.

In addition, a majority (84%) of inmates serving life sentences were considered at high risk to re-offend, a much higher proportion than the 53% of other inmates. Not surprisingly, lifers also had a higher set of needs, that is, problem areas requiring intervention, such as personal and emotional issues, marital and family problems, attitude and problems functioning in the community.

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

Issue Number: 1999005
Author(s): Carriere, Gisèle; Finn, Anne; Kowalski, Melanie; Trevathan, Shelly

Main Product: Juristat

FormatRelease dateMore information
PDFApril 22, 1999