Admissions to youth correctional services in Canada, 2011/2012

By Samuel Perreault

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In Canada, the youth criminal justice system is different from that for adults. The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) stipulates that the criminal justice system for youth must be separate from that of adults, must be based on the principle of diminished moral blameworthiness or culpability and must emphasize rehabilitation and reintegration and fair and proportionate accountability (Youth Criminal Justice Act, 2002).

The YCJA also stipulates that information about youth justice, youth crime and the effectiveness of measures taken to address youth crime should be publicly available. The data on admissions1 presented in this Juristat bulletin are obtained through the Youth Custody and Community Services Survey and the youth component of the Integrated Correctional Services Survey.

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Youth corrections in Canada and survey coverage

The federal government is responsible for setting the legislative framework, specifically the YCJA, governing criminal justice for youth between the ages of 12 and 17. However, the provinces and territories are responsible for the enforcement of the legislation and thus for youth correctional services. The way in which the YCJA is administered and the way in which data are processed may vary slightly from one jurisdiction to another. For this reason, caution should always be exercised when comparing provinces and territories.

For the fiscal year 2011/2012, nine jurisdictions provided data through the Integrated Correctional Services Survey (ICSS) or the Youth Custody and Community Services Survey (YCSS), namely, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

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Admissions decline in most jurisdictions

In 2011/2012, the nine jurisdictions that provided data reported a total of 33,924 admissions to correctional services (Table 1). For most jurisdictions, the number of youth admissions was less than the previous year. Overall, there was a 7% decline. Only Manitoba recorded an increase in admissions, while admissions in Prince Edward Island remained virtually unchanged (Chart 1).

Chart 1

Description for chart 1

More than half of admissions involve community supervision programs

More than half (58%) of youth corrections admissions involved community supervision programs.2 Admissions to probation accounted for half of all admissions to a community supervision program, about 9,200 of the 19,700 admissions (Table 1). In comparison, admissions under community supervision programs represented 37% of adult admissions (Perreault 2014).

Some jurisdictions were slightly more likely to use community supervision in 2011/2012. More than three-quarters of admissions in British Columbia and Prince Edward Island were to community supervision programs, compared to less than half in Manitoba and Yukon.

The majority of custody admissions are to pre-trial detention

Approximately four out of five (81%) custody admissions in 2011/2012 were to pre-trial detention. There were slightly more than 11,500 admissions to pre-trial detention (Table 1). In comparison, there were just over 2,300 sentenced custody admissions, representing 16% of all admissions to custody. Pre-trial detention is generally of shorter length: 82% of youth released from pre-trial detention during the year served one month or less compared to 44% of those released from sentenced custody.

Most youth admitted to correctional services are male

Most young people admitted to youth correctional services in 2011/2012 were male (77%) (Tables 2 and 3).3 This proportion is, however, slightly below the proportion of men admitted to adult correctional services (85%) (Perreault 2014).

The proportion of males admitted to youth correctional services varied depending on the type of supervision, with the highest proportion being for those sentenced to custody (83%). In comparison, this proportion was 78% for admissions to pre-trial detention and 76% for admissions to community supervision.

Aboriginal youth are over-represented in the correctional system

Aboriginal youth accounted for 7% of all youth in the provinces and territories providing data on youth admissions to the corrections system (Statistics Canada 2014). However, they accounted for a much higher proportion (39%) of young people admitted to the corrections system in 2011/2012 (Tables 2 and 3).4

The over-representation of Aboriginal youth was more disproportionate among girls, where Aboriginal girls accounted for 49% of female youth admitted to the corrections system, compared to 36% of males.

The majority of youth admitted to the correctional system are at least 15 years of age

The number of youth admitted to correctional services increases with age.5 Youth aged 12 accounted for less than 1% of admissions in 2011/2012 (Tables 2 and 3).6 This proportion increased to 31% for youth aged 17. There were also a number of admissions (13%) for young people aged 18 and older. However, this proportion represents only those offenders subject to the YCJA and admitted to youth correctional services; offenders aged 18 and over that were not subject to the YCJA entered the adult system and thus were included in admissions counts to adult corrections services.

In 2011/2012, the number of admissions declined for all ages. The most significant decreases were recorded for youth aged 13 (-16%) and 15 (-15%).

The increase in the number of admissions with age corresponds to the overall pattern in recorded crime rates by age. That is, the crime rate tends to rise quickly with age until peaking at age 18 and then slowly declines with increasing age (Brennan 2012).

Detailed data tables

Table 1 Youth admissions to correctional services, by program of supervision and jurisdiction, 2011/2012

Table 2 Youth admissions to correctional services, by the characteristics of the persons admitted and the supervision program, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon and the Northwest Territories, 2011/2012

Table 3 Youth admissions to correctional services, by the characteristics of the persons admitted and jurisdiction, 2011/2012

References

Brennan, S. 2012. “Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2011.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002.

Perreault, S. 2014. “Admissions to adult correctional services in Canada, 2011/2012.” Juristat bulletin. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002

Statistics Canada. 2014. National Household Survey (NHS), 2011, special tabulation.

Youth Criminal Justice Act, S.C. 2002, c. 1, section 3 and preamble. http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/y-1.5/ (site accessed January 2nd, 2014)

Survey descriptions

The Youth Custody and Community Services Survey collects aggregate data on the number and characteristics (e.g., age, sex, Aboriginal identity, length of sentences) of youth admissions to and releases from correctional services. The following jurisdictions reported survey data in 2011/2012: Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Alberta, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

The Integrated Correctional Services Survey (ICSS) collects microdata on adults and youth under the responsibility of the federal and provincial/territorial correctional systems. Data include socio-demographic characteristics (e.g., age, sex, Aboriginal identity) as well as information pertaining to correctional supervision including legal hold status (e.g., remand, sentenced, probation). The following jurisdictions provided youth data to the ICSS in 2011/2012: Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta (community data only), and British Columbia.

Notes

  1. Admissions for Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics surveys are counted each time a person begins any period of supervision in a correctional institution or in the community. These data describe and measure the flow of persons through correctional services over time. The same person may be included several times in the admission counts where he/she moves from one correctional program to another (e.g., from remand to sentenced custody) or re-enters the system later in the same year. Admissions therefore represent the number of entries of persons, during a fiscal year, to remand, sentenced custody or a community supervision program, regardless of the previous legal status. These data are administrative data. Even though surveys try to standardize the way the data are reported, limitations due to differences in jurisdictional operations can restrict uniform application of the definitions in some situations. Therefore, caution is required when making comparisons between jurisdictions.
  2. Community supervision includes probation, the community portion of a custody and supervision order, deferred custody and supervision, intensive support and supervision programs, bail supervision, fine option programs, restitution orders, compensation, community service and personal service, and other community sentencing options available under the YCJA.
  3. The calculation of percentages excludes unknowns.
  4. See footnote 3. For all jurisdictions, Aboriginal identity was not known for 20% of admissions. The unknown proportion was highest (40% or more) in the following jurisdictions: Prince Edward Island, Ontario and Yukon.
  5. Represents age at the time of admission.
  6. See footnote 3.
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