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Adult Correctional Services in Canada, 2005/2006

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by Laura Landry and Maire Sinha

Admissions to community supervision
Characteristics of offenders admitted to correctional services


The federal government and the provincial and territorial governments share the administration of correctional services in Canada. These services include custody as well as community services. Which adult offenders are placed in the federal system and which are placed in the provincial/territorial system depends on decisions taken by the judiciary.

Adult offenders sentenced to custody terms of two years or more fall under the federal penitentiary system. Federal correctional services are provided by the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), an agency of Public Safety Canada. The CSC is responsible for the administration of sentences and the supervision of offenders. Decisions to grant, deny, cancel, terminate or revoke parole, however, are made by the National Parole Board (NPB), which is also an agency of Public Safety Canada. The NPB is responsible for offenders serving a federal custodial sentence and for offenders serving a provincial/territorial sentence in jurisdictions that do not have their own parole boards, meaning all jurisdictions except Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia (up until April 1, 2007).1

Sentences to custody of less than two years and community-based sanctions, such as probation and conditional sentences, are the responsibility of the provinces and territories. In addition, provinces and territories are responsible for adults who are ordered to be held in custody before or during their trial (i.e., remand, or pre-trial detention) and other forms of temporary detention (e.g., immigration holds). As mentioned above, Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia (until April 1, 2007) operate their own provincial parole boards. These boards are authorized to grant releases to offenders serving a sentence of less than two years in a prison in their jurisdiction. Although the federal and provincial/territorial governments are responsible for different populations, they both work toward the same goals: the protection of society, the rehabilitation of offenders and the safe and successful integration of offenders into communities.

This Juristat provides information on the adult correctional system, including trends in the supervision of adults in custody and in the community, characteristics of offenders, and the operating cost of correctional services. The data in this Juristat are primarily drawn from the Adult Correctional Services (ACS) Survey and the Resources, Expenditures and Personnel (REP) Survey administered by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Admission and release data for seven jurisdictions are taken from the new Integrated Correctional Services Survey (ICSS) that is being implemented and which will eventually replace the ACS survey (see Methodology section for more information).

Admissions to remand continued to grow in 2005/2006

In 2005/2006, adult correctional services in Canada processed 232,810 admissions to custody and 109,539 intakes into community supervision. Together, this represented a 3% increase from the previous year.

While the total number of admissions to adult corrections increased only slightly since 1996/1997 (+1%), there has been an extensive shift in the composition of admissions, notably in provincial/territorial custody. A decade ago, adults remanded to custody to await further court appearances (i.e., not yet convicted and/or sentenced) and adults admitted to serve a sentence represented about equal proportions of all admissions to provincial/territorial custody. After ten years of growth in remand and declines in sentenced custody, remanded admissions in 2005/2006 represented the majority (63%) of admissions to provincial/territorial custody2 (Chart 1). Based on data from ten jurisdictions, the number of admissions to remand was 22% higher in 2005/2006 than in 1996/1997, while admissions to provincial and territorial sentenced custody have declined almost 28% compared to 1996/1997 (Table 2).

Chart 1
Remand accounts for a growing proportion of admissions to provincial/territorial custody, 1996/1997 to 2005/2006

Chart 1 Remand accounts for a growing proportion of admissions to provincial/territorial custody, 1996/1997 to 2005/2006

Note: Due to missing data for some years, data exclude Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Adult Correctional Services Survey.

The growing number of admissions to remand continued in 2005/2006. Compared to the previous year, the number of admissions to remand increased 6%, whereas the number of admissions to provincial/territorial sentenced custody remained relatively stable, declining by less than 1% (Table 1). Nevertheless, not all jurisdictions followed this pattern in remand and sentenced admissions. Compared to the previous year, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia experienced decreases in remand admissions in 2005/2006, while seven jurisdictions reported increases in the number of sentenced admissions (Table 3). At the federal level, admissions to sentenced custody increased by 4%.

With the exception of conditional sentences, admissions to all types of community supervision programs increased in 2005/2006 (Table 1). These include probation, provincial parole, conditional sentences, and releases from custody authorized by the Correctional Service of Canada (i.e., day and full parole for federal and provincial/territorial offenders and statutory release of federal offenders).3

Accused are spending more time in remand custody

Along with the growth in remand admissions, there has been a general trend towards longer periods of remand custody over the last decade. While most remanded adults continued to spend one week or less in remand custody, this proportion has steadily dropped from 62% of all remanded accused in 1996/1997 to 54% in 2005/2006 (Chart 2). During this same time period, the proportion of remanded adults who spent three or more months in detention increased from 4% to 7%. As a result of an increase in admissions to remand, decreases in admissions to sentenced custody and longer stays in remand, the number of adults in remand on any given day in Canada in 2005/2006 surpassed the number in sentenced custody for a second year in a row (Statistics Canada, 2007) (Chart 3).

Chart 2
Length of time served in remand increasing,1,2,3 1996/1997, 2001/2002 and 2005/2006

Chart 2 Length of time served in remand increasing, 1996/1997, 2001/2002 and 2005/2006

  1. ‘Time served’ calculations exclude releases from remand for which length of time served is unknown. Prior to 1998/1999, ‘Time served’ excluded lengths of two years or more.
  2. Number of days represented in the ‘Time served’ categories has changed slightly over the years.
  3. To allow year-over-year comparisons, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Northwest Territories and Nunavut have been excluded from the totals due to missing data in some years.

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Adult Correctional Services Survey.

Chart 3
Individuals in non-sentenced custody, such as remand or other temporary detention, account for a growing proportion of all adults in custody, 1996/1997 to 2005/2006

Chart 3 Individuals in non-sentenced custody, such as remand or other temporary detention, account for a growing proportion of all adults in custody, 1996/1997 to 2005/2006

Note: To allow year-over-year comparisons, other temporary detention data from Manitoba and British Columbia have been excluded from the totals due to missing data for some years.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Key Indicators Report.

Among the nine jurisdictions that consistently reported data,4 most have experienced an increase in the lengths of remand custody, particularly Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan. In these provinces, about three-quarters or more of remanded adults in 1996/1997 spent 1 to 7 days in custody. This proportion dropped to half of remand releases in 2005/2006 (Table 4).

Quebec reported the shortest periods of remand. In 2005/2006, 70% of all remanded adults in Quebec were held for a week or less and 13% were held longer than one month (Table 4). This contrasts sharply with lengths of remand in Newfoundland and Labrador and the Northwest Territories, the jurisdictions with the longest periods of remand. In 2005/2006, 16% of remanded adults in Newfoundland and Labrador and 17% in the Northwest Territories were held for a week or less. About half of remanded adults in these two jurisdictions were kept over one month (49% and 53%, respectively).5,6

Legislative changes and longer court case processing time among possible factors related to shift in custodial supervision

Changes in laws governing sentencing and remand, factors related to the accused, and longer court case processing times may help explain the growth in remand and the decrease in sentenced custody admissions.

In the late 1990s, an amendment to the Criminal Code created conditional sentences as a sentencing option, allowing for a term of imprisonment to be served in the community. With the steady increase in the number of conditional sentences in the seven years following implementation in 1996, it is likely that this sentencing option has contributed to the decrease in levels of sentenced custody.

A second legislative change expanded the grounds for sending an accused to remand. The expansion of section 515 (10) of the Criminal Code in 1997 allowed the use of remand for just grounds not already identified in the provision and where “the detention is necessary in order to maintain the confidence in the administration of justice having regard to all the circumstances”. An additional amendment was introduced in 1999 to ensure that the safety concerns of victims and witnesses are taken into consideration in the decisions concerning remand. Combined, these amendments, which expanded the circumstances under which remand could be applied, may have contributed to expanding the remand population.

Non-compliance with court orders, as well as the type of offence being charged can play a role in whether an accused is sent to remand or released into the community. Failing to comply with bail conditions can result in the accused returning to court and being remanded to custody. Over the past decade, police-reported data show a 40% increase in the rate of bail order violations (Silver, 2007). Violating bail is often a result of non-compliance with the conditions imposed by the court, such as not reporting to authorities, not remaining in the jurisdiction, communicating with a victim or witness, or possessing a weapon. While it is only possible to examine admissions to remand by bail violations for a small number of jurisdictions reporting to the Integrated Correctional Services Survey (ICSS), there is some indication that bail violations may help to partly explain the increase in remand. For example, in Saskatchewan, the jurisdiction that has consistently reported to the ICSS for the longest period of time, there has been an overall increase in admissions to remand for bail violations since 1999/2000 (+23%).

Accused charged with more serious offences tend to be more often remanded to custody than those charged with less serious offences (Gilmour, 1999). Police-reported data show that there has been an increase in incidents of serious crimes, albeit low volume offences, over the last decade. In particular, increases in aggravated assault with a weapon (+35%), aggravated assault causing bodily harm (+9%) and kidnapping/forcible confinement (+108%)7 may have somewhat contributed to the increase in remand admissions.

Not only does the type of crime have an impact on the number of admissions to remand, but it may also lengthen the time spent in remand, since more serious crimes can take longer to process in court. In 2005/2006, the median elapsed time to process a court case for crimes against the person (i.e., violent crime) was 153 days, compared to a median time of 107 days for crimes against property (Statistics Canada, 2007). Further, increases in the median court case processing time have been recorded for all crimes.

Remanded adults more often charged with violent crimes than inmates sentenced to custody without remand

The characteristics of remanded and provincially/territorially sentenced custody inmates differ in important ways. With the Integrated Correctional Services Survey, it is possible to examine the characteristics that differentiate accused who received remand at some point in their involvement with corrections from those inmates in sentenced custody who were never remanded to custody (i.e., they were previously released on supervised bail or on their own recognizance while awaiting court appearances).8,9 Data are available for five jurisdictions: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan. The reader is cautioned that these data are not representative at the national level.

Among the reporting jurisdictions, remanded adults were more likely to be charged with a violent crime (40%), compared to nonremanded inmates (16%) (Table 5). This is not surprising given that the Criminal Code (s. 515 (10(b)) specifies protection of the public, victims or witnesses as grounds for denying bail and holding an accused in remand. Traffic offences and non-Criminal Code offences,10 such as federal statute offences and provincial/territorial offences, were the most common offences among inmates who were never remanded (20% and 21%).

Remanded inmates are generally younger than sentenced inmates

Consistent with males’ overrepresentation as offenders, among both remanded and non-remanded inmate population, approximately nine in ten inmates were men (Table 5). The similarity in the two groups also extends to their employment status. Among the five jurisdictions, both remanded and non-remanded inmates reported unemployment rates (43% and 44%, respectively) considerably higher than the national unemployment rate (6.3%).11,12 It has been suggested that unemployment is a risk factor for criminal activity, particularly property crime (Gannon et al., 2005).

However, there were key differences in demographic characteristics between persons remanded to custody and sentenced inmates who were never remanded. The remanded population was generally younger than the sentenced population that was released before trial and sentencing. In particular, 29% of remanded inmates were below the age of 25 years, compared to 20% of sentenced inmates who were never remanded (Table 5).

A larger proportion of remanded adults was also single and never married (61% versus 53% of non-remanded inmates). It has been shown in previous research that the courts can view attached individuals (married or having family responsibilities) as less of a fl ight risk and are therefore may be more likely to grant them bail (Ozanne et. al, 1980; Morgan and Henderson, 1998). In addition, remanded offenders had slightly lower levels of educational attainment. Forty-three percent of offenders remanded to custody had graduated high school, while 48% of non-remanded offenders had obtained a high school diploma.

There was also a slight difference in the Aboriginal status of remanded and non-remanded inmates. One in six non-remanded inmates was an Aboriginal person, compared to one in eight remanded inmates.

Remanded population in Saskatchewan had more assessed needs than non-remanded population

When an individual is involved in correctional services, risk and needs assessment tools are often used to guide treatment while under correctional supervision as well as to assess the risk of future offending. The Integrated Correctional Services Survey (ICSS) currently receives data on the needs of offenders from Saskatchewan only. Data are collected for assessed offenders on six needs: attitude, criminal peers/companions (social interactions), drug or alcohol abuse (substance abuse), employment, family/ marital relationships, and emotional stability of the individual (personal/emotional).

Remanded inmates in Saskatchewan showed a greater number of assessed needs than non-remanded inmates. In particular, 41% of remanded inmates indicated that they had five to six needs, compared to 29% of non-remanded sentenced inmates (Table 5). For all six needs, the proportion of remanded inmates with a need was higher than the rate identified for non-remanded inmates. For both populations, the most commonly identifi ed need was substance abuse.

Despite the greater needs among the remand population, remand inmates may not have access to or may not participate in programming. It has been argued that inmates on remand have less access to activities, such as recreation, work and rehabilitative programs and services (The John Howard Society of Ontario, 2002; Ombudsman Saskatchewan, 2002).

Shorter sentence lengths over the last decade

The length of sentenced custody has dropped in the last decade, particularly for the shortest sentence lengths. According to the Adult Correctional Services Survey, sentences of less than eight days accounted for 27% of all sentences in 2005/2006, compared to 14% of sentences in 1996/1997. Furthermore, lengthy periods of provincial/territorial sentenced custody have dropped in prevalence. The proportion of provincial/territorial offenders admitted for three or more months has decreased from 37% to 27% over the past decade.

At sentencing, the judge may consider time served in remand custody as part of the sentence already served. Possible consequences of crediting pre-sentence custody are a reduction in the number of offenders admitted to sentenced custody, as well as a reduction in the average count of offenders in sentenced custody because of shorter sentence lengths.

Federal institutions are also reporting a decrease in sentence lengths. While sentences under 3 years remain the most common federal sentence length, they have grown from 35% of all admissions in 1996/1997 to 55% in 2005/2006.

Admissions to community supervision

Western provinces drive decrease in conditional sentences

The vast majority of all admissions to community supervision (93%) are the responsibility of the provinces and territories, while admissions to full parole, day parole and statutory release fall under the responsibility of the Correctional Service of Canada (7%).

Similar to the upward trend in admissions to custodial supervision, there was a 2% growth in total admissions to community supervision in 2005/2006. While nearly all types of community supervision showed slight increases, admissions for conditional sentences decreased 2% (Table 1). This decline was primarily fueled by considerable decreases in Alberta (-10%) and British Columbia (-8%) (Table 6). The overall drop in conditional sentences contrasts with the long-term upward trend. Admissions to conditional sentences increased steadily after their implementation in the late 1990s and were 25% higher in 2005/2006 compared to 1997/1998, the fi rst year that complete data are available.

Based on data from the six jurisdictions that report community supervision data to the Integrated Correctional Services Survey,13 western provinces were generally managing conditional sentence offenders for longer periods of time than were eastern provinces. More than half of conditional sentences in Alberta were for 12 or more months (58%), compared to 30% in Ontario, and 14% in Newfoundland and Labrador (Chart 4).

Chart 4
Lengths of conditional sentences are highest in the West, 2005/2006

Chart 4 Lengths of conditional sentences are highest in the West, 2005/2006

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Integrated Correctional Services Survey.

Probation intakes remain steady, while provincial parole drops

Probation continues to drive the overall trend in community admissions, as it represents three-quarters of all admissions reported to the Adult Correctional Services Survey. In 2005/2006, these probation intakes were most often for violent offences (41%), followed by property offences (28%) and other Criminal Code offences (20%) (Table 7). The majority of probationers (41%) spent 12 months on probation. An additional 17% were given a probation order of 2 years or more, 14% received 6 months and 9% received 18 months. These patterns differ little compared to previous years. Administrators in the provinces and territories are managing about the same number of probation admissions as a decade ago. However, they have reported 61% fewer intakes for provincial parole (Table 2). The change in the number of parole admissions may refl ect changes in the number of applications for parole and trends in granting parole (Gannon, et al., 2005).

Characteristics of offenders admitted to correctional services

Women account for a small proportion of admissions to corrections

Female offenders, who represent a minority of offenders admitted to correctional services, account for larger proportions of those serving probation and conditional sentences than sentenced custody. Data from all provinces and territories, with the exception of Prince Edward Island, showed that in 2005/2006, women comprised 18% of all probation intakes and 17% of conditional sentence intakes. In comparison, they represented 6% of admissions to sentenced federal custody, 11% of admissions to sentenced provincial/territorial custody, and 12% of admissions to remand (Table 8). Previous research has shown that women are less likely to be sentenced to custody, regardless of the seriousness of the offence (Kong and Au Coin, 2008). This may be partly explained by the fact that women tend to have fewer number of charges and shorter criminal histories compared to men (Kong and Au Coin, 2008).

Some provincial/territorial systems reported substantially lower representation of females in sentenced custody than the Canadian total of 11%, notably Nunavut at 2% and Newfoundland and Labrador at 4% (Table 8). Newfoundland and Labrador was the only province to report a notable drop in the proportion of women admitted to sentenced custody over the last ten years (from 7% in 1996/1997 to 4% of all admissions in 2005/2006).14 The remaining provinces saw little change or witnessed increases in female representation among sentenced custody admissions.

Aboriginal peoples continue to be highly represented in admissions to corrections

As has been the case historically, Aboriginal people had higher levels of representation in corrections compared to their 4% representation in the Canadian adult population.15 Aboriginal people were highly represented in admissions to provincial/territorial sentenced custody (24%) and conditional sentences (20%) (Table 8). They also represented 19% of admissions to remand, 18% of federal custodial sentences and 19% of probation intakes.

In the twelve reporting provinces and territories (excludes Prince Edward Island), Aboriginal offenders were highly represented in sentenced custody. In Quebec, the representation of Aboriginal offenders in prison was closest to their representation in the general population (3% versus 2%), while western provinces were most likely to have sentenced custody admission rates for Aboriginal offenders substantially higher than their populations, notably Saskatchewan (79% versus 15%) and Manitoba (71% versus 16%).

According to the 2006 Census, the number of individuals who self-identifi ed as Aboriginal people increased 45% over the last decade and this growth has occurred across all provinces. Over this same period, some provinces have witnessed an increased representation of Aboriginal people among those admitted to sentenced custody. Such an increase was most notable in Manitoba where Aboriginal people accounted for 71% of sentenced admissions in 2005/2006, up from 58% in 1996/1997.

Non-violent offenders represent majority of admissions to provincial/territorial sentenced custody16

Unlike federal custody where half of all admissions are related to violent crimes, most offenders who enter into provincial/territorial sentenced custody have been convicted of a non-violent offence (Table 9).17 The exceptions are Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, where violent crime was the most common offence upon admission. Admissions to sentenced custody for other Criminal Code offences (such as bail violations, counterfeiting currency and kidnapping) accounted for the highest proportion of sentenced admissions in over half of the jurisdictions.

Adult correctional service operational expenditures

According to the Adult Correctional Service Resources, Expenditures and Personnel (REP) Survey, expenditures on adult correctional services in 2005/2006 totaled almost $3 billion. At both the federal and provincial/territorial levels, the vast majority of expenditures were incurred for custodial services (Table 12). Correctional services recorded a 2% increase in constant dollar expenditures between 2004/2005 and 2005/2006.

On average, spending per inmate in provincial and territorial custody was $143 per day in 2005/2006. After adjusting for the effects of infl ation, the average daily inmate expenditure for provincial/territorial inmates has decreased 6% since peaking in 2002/2003 (Table 10). While the overall expenditures on custodial services is higher than community supervision, the amount spent on providing community supervision services has shown signifi cant increases. In particular, the overall operating expenditures for community services in 2005/2006 were 13% higher than in 2001/2002 (Table 11).

At the federal level, the average daily expenditure related to housing an inmate in 2005/2006 was $260. Based on the constant dollar amount, average daily spending on federal inmates in 2005/2006 ($204) was modestly lower than the peak observed in 2004/2005 ($208). However, it remained 44% higher than a decade earlier (Table 13).

The reader is cautioned against comparing the expenditures incurred for provincial/territorial custody and federal custody. The federal average daily inmate expenditures include expenditures associated with the operations of the institution, including salaries. The average daily inmate expenditures for provincial/territorial corrections, on the other hand, refl ect only operating expenditures associated with custodial services and exclude spending associated with operating the institution, such as salaries.

Correctional facilities

In 2005/2006, there were 192 correctional facilities across Canada, including 76 facilities under federal jurisdiction and 116 facilities under provincial/territorial jurisdiction. In the federal system in 2005/2006, 18 federal community correctional centres were in operation at year end with a capacity of 516 inmates, along with 58 federal institutions with 14,131 spaces. These spaces represented approximately 40% of total institutional capacity in Canada in 2005/2006. Since 2001/2002, total federal custodial capacity has increased 3%.1

A total operational capacity of 23,637 spaces were reported in 116 provincial and territorial facilities of which 100 were secure institutions and the remaining 16 were minimum (open) security institutions in 2005/2006. This represents approximately 60% of total institutional capacity in Canada. Since 2001/2002, total reported capacity of the provincial/territorial custodial correctional system has increased 1%. This excludes Prince Edward Island which was unable to report data in 2005/2006.

1. The method for determining bed space capacity in some jurisdictions has changed and therefore, comparison to years prior to 2000/2001 should be made with caution.


Adults: Persons aged 18 years of age or older at the time of admission.

Community supervision: Supervision of offenders on probation, conditional sentence and community release (parole or statutory release). Offenders in the community are often supervised by a probation or parole officer.

Probation: Disposition of the court where the offender is given a suspended sentence or conditional discharge and is released on conditions prescribed in a mandatory probation order. The court may also direct the offender to comply with conditions of a probation order in addition to a fi ne or a sentence of custody.

Conditional sentence: Disposition of the court introduced in 1996 where the offender serves a term of imprisonment in the community under specifi ed conditions. Conditional sentences are more restrictive than probation, but less serious than custody. This type of sentence can only be imposed in cases where the term of imprisonment would be less than two years, and are therefore administered by provincial and territorial correctional agencies.

Community release: Supervision of offenders on day parole, full parole, statutory release and long term supervision orders. The National Parole Board (NPB) has the authority to grant, deny, terminate or revoke parole, to terminate or revoke statutory release, detain certain offenders past their statutory release date, and grant unescorted temporary absences.

Parole: Programs of conditional release from custody into the community under the authority of parole boards.

Provincial parole: Programs of conditional release managed by administrative tribunals in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia (until April 1, 2007) that have the authority to grant, deny, terminate or revoke parole in their jurisdiction.

Day parole: Release of an offender into the community granted by the National Parole Board or a provincial parole board to prepare the offender for full parole or statutory release. The conditions require the offender to return to a penitentiary, a community-based residential facility or a provincial correctional facility each night. Federal offenders serving determinate sentences are eligible to apply for day parole six months prior to their full parole eligibility date or after having served one-sixth of their sentence for cases that meet accelerated parole review criteria.

Full parole: Release of an offender into the community to serve part of their prison sentence. Offenders are under supervision by a parole offi cer and are required to abide by conditions designed to reduce the risk of re-offending and to foster re-integration into the community. Federal offenders serving determinate sentences are eligible to apply for parole after serving one third of their sentence or seven years after admission, whichever is less.

Statutory release: Release of federal offenders into the community after serving two thirds of their sentence, unless they are detained by the National Parole Board or they waive statutory release.

Long-term supervision order: Disposition that came into effect in Canada on August 1, 1997, in which the court can order that the offender be supervised in the community for a period not exceeding 10 years after having served a custody sentence of two years or more.

Custodial supervision/custody: Detention of a person in a secure facility (prison), including sentenced custody, remand and temporary detention.

Sentenced custody: Detention of offenders convicted of a crime, either in a federal (2 years or more), or a provincial or territorial (less than 2 years) facility.

Non-sentenced custody:
1) Remand: Court ordered detention of a person while awaiting a further court appearance.

2) Temporary detention: Incarceration of a person (who is not on remand or has not been sentenced) for other reasons, e.g. immigration matters, parole suspension.

Most serious offence:

Most serious offence (MSO) – This measure is based on the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey which classifi es incidents, according to the most serious offence in the incident. The Adult Correctional Services Survey uses the same rule in determining the most serious offence for which an offender is sentenced. For example, if an offender is sentenced for more than one offence, the most serious offence rule states that where several offences occur in one incident, only the most serious offence, based on penalties in the Criminal Code of Canada, is recorded.

Most serious disposition (MSD) – If an offender receives more than one conviction, the offence with the longest sentence given to the offender is the one recorded and reported in the Adult Correctional Services Survey.

Multiple charge (MC) – If an offender is charged with, and found guilty of more than one offence, all charges will be recorded and reported in the Adult Correctional Services Survey.


Attitude - degree to which an individual accepts responsibility for the offence and shows a willingness to change.

Peers/companions (social interaction) - level of problems associated with some or all of the individual’s peers.

Drug or alcohol abuse (substance abuse) - degree to which use of alcohol and/or drugs is associated with problems.

Employment - employment status (employed vs. unemployed) and employment history.

Family/marital relationships (marital/family) - presence or absence of serious problems in relationships.

Emotional stability of offender (personal/emotional) - whether or not emotional instability exists and the degree to which this is related to serious problems.


The information presented in this Juristat comes from data collected on adult correctional services in Canada through three surveys: the Adult Correctional Services Resources, Expenditures and Personnel (REP) Survey, the Adult Correctional Services (ACS) Survey and the Integrated Correctional Services Survey (ICSS) which is currently being implemented and is intended to eventually replace the Adult Correctional Services Survey. The ICSS collects person-level descriptive data and characteristics information on adult offenders. Survey coverage for 2005/2006 includes the following jurisdictions which reported both custody and community admissions and releases data to the ICSS: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and the Correctional Services Canada (CSC). In addition, Alberta reported community admissions and releases. The jurisdictions not yet reporting to the ICSS continue to participate in the ACS Survey which collects aggregate caseload and case characteristics information on adults (18 years and over) under some form of provincial or territorial correctional supervision.

Admissions are collected when an offender enters an institution or community supervision program, and describe and measure the case-fl ow in correctional agencies over time. While aggregate admissions include all persons passing through the correctional system, they do not indicate the number of unique individuals in the correctional system. The same person can be included several times in the admission counts where the individual moves from one type of correctional service to another (e.g., from remand to sentenced custody) or re-enters the system in the same year.

Data relating to operating expenditures and personnel are collected through the REP Survey. Data for all three surveys are provided by the various provincial, territorial and federal ministries, departments and agencies that administer correctional services across the country. As a result of consistent counting practices within jurisdictions over time, statements may be made about the trends within each jurisdiction. These surveys are conducted annually, on a fiscal-year basis.

Data on the average counts of adults and youths in the correctional system were released in November 2007 (Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. November 21, 2007. “Adult and youth correctional services: Key indicators” The Daily.) Data in that release were collected by the Corrections Key Indicator Report (CKIR) for Adults and Young Offenders.


Gannon, M. et al. 2005. Criminal Justice Indicators. Edited by Rebecca Kong. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-227-XIE Ottawa.

Gilmour, H. 1999. The Use of Custodial Remand in Canada, 1988-1989 to 1997-1998. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-550-XIE. Ottawa.

Hendrick, D, M. Martin and P. Greenberg. 2003. Conditional sentencing in Canada: A statistical profile 1997–2001. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-560-XIE. Ottawa.

Johnson, S. 2003. “Custodial remand in Canada, 1986/87 to 2000/2001.” Juristat. Vol. 23, no. 7. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-XIE. Ottawa.

Kong, R. and K. Au Coin. 2008. “Female offenders in Canada.” Juristat. Vol. 28, no. 1. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-XIE, Ottawa.

Morgan, P. M. and P. F. Henderson. 1998. Remand Decisions and Offending on Bail: Evaluation of the Bail Process Project. HORS No. 184. London. Home Office. Available from (accessed April 8, 2008).

Ombudsman Saskatchewan. October 2002. Special Report: Inmate Services and Conditions of Custody in Saskatchewan Correctional Centres.

Ozanne, M.R., R.A. Wilson, and D.L. Gedney. 1980. “Toward a theory of bail risk.” Criminology. Vol. 18, no. 2. p. 147 to 161.

Silver, W. 2007. “Crime statistics in Canada, 2006.” Juristat. Vol. 27, no. 5. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-XIE. Ottawa.

Statistics Canada. October 23, 2007. “Adult criminal court statistics.” The Daily.

Statistics Canada. November 21, 2007. “Adult and youth correctional services: Key indicators.” The Daily.

The John Howard Society of Ontario. 2002. “Doing dead time: Custody before trial”. Fact Sheet. no. 17. A Publication of the John Howard Society of Ontario.

Thomas, M., 2004. “Adult criminal court statistics, 2003/2004.” Juristat. Vol. 24, no. 12. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-XPE. Ottawa.


  1. On April 1, 2007, The Board of Parole for the province of British Columbia transferred its responsibilities for parole to the National Parole Board.
  2. Total admissions exclude other temporary detention.
  3. Warrant of expiry releases and other types of releases are not included. Warrant of expiry releases mean releases on the day on which the sentence expires.
  4. Manitoba, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut did not report data for 1996/1997, while Prince Edward Island did not report data for 2005/2006.
  5. Data on remand by offence type are available for jurisdictions that report custody information to the Integrated Correctional Services Survey. As a reporting jurisdiction, Newfoundland and Labrador showed longer remand lengths for both violent and property crimes. For instance, 12% of violent remanded inmates and 9% of property remanded inmates were held for a week or less.
  6. In Newfoundland and Labrador, remand admission data exclude remands involving short periods of incarceration in police custody. This may partly explain the longer periods of remand observed in this province.
  7. Silver, W. 2007.
  8. The remand group includes persons who were in remand at least once during their involvement with corrections. The sentenced group with no remand includes persons who were never remanded during their involvement with corrections but whose involvement included sentenced custody.
  9. This survey represents 74% of the national volume of admissions to custody.
  10. This offence category excludes drug offences and includes unknown offences.
  11. National unemployment rate for 2006. Statistics Canada, CANSIM, tables 282-0002 and 282-0022 and Catalogue no. 71F0004XCB.
  12. Information is gathered at the time of admission and does not take into account the accused employment status at the time of the offence.
  13. The six provinces include Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
  14. Newfoundland and Labrador changed data capturing system during this time period.
  15. Statistics Canada, 2006 Census of the Population.
  16. When there is more than one offence leading to incarceration, only data related to the most serious offence in the case is recorded (except in Alberta, which uses multiple charge data to record all offences, and British Columbia which uses the most serious disposition methodology). The following jurisdictional analysis includes only those jurisdictions employing the most serious offence methodology.
  17. While most provinces report the most serious offence (MSO), Alberta reports multiple charges (MC) and British Columbia records the most serious disposition (MSD).