Adult correctional statistics in Canada, 2015/2016
by Julie Reitano
This Juristat article provides an overview of adult correctional services in Canada for 2015/2016. It presents three indicators that describe the use of correctional services: average daily counts, admissions and initial entry. Average counts provide a snapshot of the adult corrections population on any given day; initial entry provides an indication of the number of adults entering the corrections system during the year; and admissions measure the flow of adults through the system by counting adults each time they begin or move to a new type of custody or community supervision (see Text box 1).
The information for this Juristat article comes from three correctional services surveys. The Adult Correctional Services Survey and the Integrated Correctional Services Survey are the sources of admissions data. The Adult Corrections Key Indicator Report provides information on average daily counts. Data coverage for these surveys for some years is incomplete. Exclusions are noted where applicable.
In Canada, the administration of adult correctional services is a shared responsibility between the federal and provincial and territorial governments. The federal system has jurisdiction over adult offenders (18 years and older) serving custodial sentences of two years or more and is responsible for supervising offenders on conditional release in the community (such as parole or statutory release). The provincial and territorial system is responsible for adults serving custodial sentences that are less than two years, those who are being held while awaiting trial or sentencing (remand), as well as offenders serving community sentences, such as probation.
Rate of adults being supervised by the correctional system continues to decline
- In 2015/2016, there were on average 120,568 adult offenders on a given day, in either custody or in a community programNote 1 (Table 1) among the 11 reporting provinces and territories for which both custody and community data were available. This represents a rate of 438 offenders per 100,000 adult population,Note 2 a decrease of 3% from the previous yearNote 3 and a decline of 16% compared to 2011/2012.Note 4
- In contrast, the number of adults charged with a crime by police in Canada increased 3% between 2014 and 2015. However, between 2011 and 2015, there was a 1% decline in the number of adults charged.Note 5
- On a typical day in the federal correctional system in 2015/2016, there were 22,956 adult offenders being supervised, representing a rate of 79 per 100,000 adult population. The federal rate was down 1% from the previous year and down 6% compared to five years earlier.
- A large majority of adults (80%) under correctional supervision in the provinces and territories in 2015/2016 were under community supervision such as probation and conditional sentences. The remaining 20% were in custody.Note 6
Adult incarceration rate remains stable
- On an average day in 2015/2016, there were 40,147 adults in custody; 25,405 in provincial and territorial custody and 14,742 in federal custodyNote 7 (Table 1).
- The adult incarceration rate for Canada, which represents the average number of adults in custody (sentenced custody, remand and other temporary detention) per day for every 100,000 adults in the population remained stable in 2015/2016 at 139 inmates per 100,000 adults.
- The provincial and territorial adult incarceration rate increased 3% from the previous year to 88 offenders per 100,000 adult population in 2015/2016. The federal incarceration rate declined 4% from 2014/2015 to 51 offenders per 100,000 adult population.
- The provincial and territorial adult incarceration rate increased in 9 of the 13 reporting provinces and territories. The increase in rates ranged from 1% in Ontario to a high of 23% in Yukon. Declines were noted for 3 jurisdictions. The largest decline was reported by Prince Edward Island (-20%).
- The adult incarceration rate varied among the provinces. Manitoba recorded the highest adult incarceration rate at 242 per 100,000 adult population, while Nova Scotia recorded the lowest (62 per 100,000 adult population) (see Text box 2).
Remand continues to exceed sentenced population
- On a typical day, in 2015/2016, there were 14,899 adults held in remand, awaiting trial or sentencing, in comparison to 10,091 adults in sentenced custody in the provinces and territories (Table 2).
- Consistently over the last decade, the remand population has exceeded the sentenced population with adults in remand accounting for 60% of the custodial population in 2015/2016 (Chart 1).Note 8
- Within the custodial population,Note 9 seven in 13 jurisdictions had higher proportions in remand versus sentenced custody; Alberta (70%), Ontario (67%), Manitoba (66%), Yukon (62%), British Columbia (61%), Nova Scotia (58%) and the Northwest Territories (51%).
- In comparison to 2005/2006, the average number of adults in remand was 35% higher in 2015/2016. All provinces and territoriesNote 10 experienced increases; however, the largest increases were noted in New Brunswick (+112%), Newfoundland and Labrador (+106%), and Nunavut (+104%).
Most adults under community supervision are on probation
- In 2015/2016, on an average day, in the 11 provinces and territories for which community data were reported, there were 96,087 adult offenders being supervised through community programs such as probation and conditional sentences (Table 1).Note 11 In addition, Correctional Service Canada supervised an average of 8,215 offenders per day on day parole, full parole, or statutory release.
- Probation is by far the most common supervision program in provincial and territorial corrections. On a typical day in 2015/2016, there were 86,749 adult offenders on probation, representing 90% of the population under supervision in the community and 72% of all adults under correctional supervision in the 11 reporting provinces and territories (Table 2).
- The rate of adult offenders being supervisedNote 12 in the community in the provinces and territories was 349 adults per 100,000 population in 2015/2016 (Table 1), representing a decrease of 4% from the previous year.Note 13 The rate of federal offenders in community supervision increased 3% to a rate of 28 adults per 100,000 population.
Remand is the first point of contact for many adults entering adult corrections
- Initial entry, which measures the number of adults commencing a period of correctional supervision, provides an indication of new workload. In 2015/2016, there were 83,770 initial entries of adults into correctional services in the five reporting jurisdictionsNote 14 (Table 3). This was about the same as the number of new entries in the previous year. Newfoundland and Labrador reported the largest decrease (-4%) and British Columbia reported the highest increase (+4%) from 2014/2015.
- Remand was the most common point at which adults entered the correctional system in Ontario (53% of initial entries), and New Brunswick (37%).
- Probation was the most common initial entry point in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador (39% and 38% respectively).
- The commencement of bail supervision was the most common point of initial entry in British Columbia (55%), the only reporting province that supervises bail.
Admissions to adult correctional services have remained stable
- Admissions are counted each time a person begins any period of supervision in a correctional institution or in the community and measure the number of times an adult moves from one type of correctional supervision to another. In 2015/2016, there were 333,196 admissions to federal and to provincial and territorial adult correctional services in the 12 reporting provinces and territories (Table 4).Note 15 This figure was virtually unchanged from the previous year, but down 6% from five years earlier. Admissions to provincial/territorial corrections accounted for 95% of all admissions to correctional services.
- Among the provinces and territories, admissions to custody increased slightly (+2%) while admissions to community supervision registered a slight decline (-2%) in 2015/2016. Among the reporting provinces and territories,Note 16 the largest overall decrease in correctional supervision was recorded by Nunavut (-21%). In contrast, the Northwest Territories recorded the largest increase (+21%) (Table 4).
- Federal admissions to custody (sentenced custody and other temporary detention) and to community supervision both increased 1% from the previous year.
Women account for a small proportion of admissions to adult correctional services
- In 2015/2016, 16% of adults admitted to provincial and territorial correctional servicesNote 17 were women.Note 18 Women accounted for a higher proportion of community admissions (20%) than custody admissions (13%) (Table 5).
- In provincial and territorial corrections, women made up a 14% of admissions to remand and 11% of admissions to sentenced custody.
- At the federal level, women accounted for 7% of admissions to custody and 8% of admissions to sentenced custody. Additionally, women represented 7% of admissions to community supervision.
Younger adults account for the majority of admissions
- In 2015/2016, adults under 35 years oldNote 19 accounted for 58% of custodial admissions to provincial and territorial corrections (Chart 2).Note 20 This was unchanged from five years earlier.
- Custodial admissions to federal correctional services were similar with the majority (52%) of adults admitted being under 35 years of age.
- Younger adults are overrepresented in admissions to adult correctional services given that individuals between 18 and 34 years of age represent 28% of the Canadian adult population.Note 21
- Although the custodial population tends to be relatively young, in 2015/2016, custodial admissions for adults 50 years or older were up 22% for federal custody and 7% for provincial/territorial custody in comparison to 5 years earlier.
Aboriginal adults account for one in four admissions to provincial/territorial correctional services
- In 2015/2016, Aboriginal adultsNote 22Note 23 were overrepresented in admissions to provincial and territorial correctional services, as they accounted for 26% of admissionsNote 24 while representing about 3% of the Canadian adult populationNote 25 (Table 5). The findings for provincial and territorial custodial admissions (27%) were similar to community admissions (24%).
- Aboriginal adults in federal correctional services accounted for 28% of admissions to custody and 26% to community supervision in 2015/2016.
- The overrepresentation of Aboriginal adults was more pronounced for females than males. Aboriginal females accounted for 38% of female admissions to provincial and territorial sentenced custody, while the comparable figure for Aboriginal males was 26%. In the federal correctional services, Aboriginal females accounted for 31% of female admissions to sentenced custody, while the figure for Aboriginal males was 23%.
Time spent in provincial/territorial custody continues to be short
- The length of time spent in custody tends to be short. In 2015/2016, more than half (51%) of adult offenders releasedNote 26 from remand in the 12 reporting provinces and territories were held for one week or less and more than three-quarters (76%) were held for one month or less (Chart 3).Note 27
- In 2015/2016, 30% of adult offenders released from provincial and territorial sentenced custody were there for one week or less, and about six in ten adult offenders (59%) spent one month or less in custody (Chart 3).
- The distribution of time spent in sentenced custody for 2015/2016 was very similar to five years earlier, although the proportion of offenders spending one week or less was somewhat lower (28%) in 2011/2012.
Operating expenditures totalled more than $4 billion in 2015/2016
- In 2015/2016, adult correctional services operating expenditures in Canada totalled over $4.6 billion, a decrease of 2% from the previous year after adjusting for inflation.Note 28 This decline is the result of the decrease in federal expenditures on corrections (-9%) while provincial and territorial spending increased 6% (Table 6).
- Total operating expendituresNote 29 for correctional services was equivalent to $128 for each person in the Canadian population. Of this amount, a little over half ($62) was spent on federal correctional services, with the remainder being spent for provincial and territorial correctional services (Table 6).
- In the provincial and territorial system, custodial services accounted for 80% of all correctional expenditures in 2015/2016, even though the custodial population accounted for 63% of the total correctional services population. Community supervision services expenditures accounted for 15% of total expenditures (Table 6).
- The costs for keeping adults in custody are typically higher for the federal system. On average, in 2015/2016, institutional expenditures amounted to around $283 per day for federal offenders, compared to about $203 per day for provincial and territorial offenders (Table 6).
Data table for Chart 1
|rate per 100,000 adult population|
|Sentenced custody (federal)Chart 1 Note 1||50||51||51||51||50||51||52||52||54||53||51|
|Sentenced custody (provincial/territorial)Chart 1 Note 2||37||38||38||37||37||40||40||40||39||36||35|
|Remand (provincial/territorial)Chart 1 Note 3||43||47||49||50||50||47||48||48||46||46||49|
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Adult Corrections Key Indicator Report, 2015/2016.
Data table for Chart 2
|Age group (years)|
|18 and 19||20 to 24||25 to 29||30 to 34||35 to 39||40 to 44||45 to 49||50 and older|
Note: Provincial and territorial total admissions excludes Alberta due to the unavailability of data.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Adult Correctional Services Survey 2015/2016.
Data table for Chart 3
|Time served||Sentence custody||Remand|
|percent of releases|
|1 week or less||30||51|
|Greater than 1 week
to 1 month
|Greater than 1 month
to 6 months
|More than 6 months||10||4|
Note: Excludes Alberta due to the unavailability of data.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Adult Correctional Services Survey 2015/2016.
Detailed data tables
Table 1 Average daily counts of adults in correctional services, by jurisdiction, 2015/2016
Table 2 Average daily counts of adults under correctional supervision, by type of supervision and jurisdiction, 2015/2016
Table 3 Initial entry of adults into correctional services, by type of supervision and by province, 2015/2016
Table 4 Admissions to adult correctional services, by type of supervision and jurisdiction, 2015/2016
Table 5 Admissions to adult correctional services, by characteristic of persons admitted, type of supervision and jurisdiction, 2015/2016
Table 6 Operating expenditures of the adult correctional system, by jurisdiction, 2015/2016
Start of text box
Average counts provide a snapshot of the adult correctional population and represent the number of adults in custody or under community supervision on a typical day. Corrections officials typically perform daily counts of adults in their facilities and monthly counts of adults under community supervision. These are used to calculate the annual average daily custody and community counts as well as average daily inmate costs.
Initial entry represents the first point at which an adult commences an uninterrupted period of supervision within the adult corrections system. Each person is counted only once during his or her period of involvement with correctional services, regardless of subsequent changes in legal hold status.
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 number of times an adult moves from one type of correctional supervision to another. The same person may be included several times in the admission counts where he/she moves from one correctional program to another (for example, 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 hold status.
Not all provinces and territories reported complete data for 2015/2016. Jurisdictions excluded from particular analyses due to non-reporting are noted throughout the article. The following data are not available:
- Average counts data for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (community supervision and total correctional services).
- Average counts data for Alberta for 2014/2015 (community supervision and total correctional services).
- Admissions data for Alberta.
- Initial entry data for Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
The information presented in this report is based on administrative data. Although the correctional services surveys use nationally agreed upon, standardized concepts and definitions, limitations in jurisdictional comparability may exist due to differences in corrections operations that can affect the uniform application of the standard definitions. Therefore, caution is required when making comparisons between jurisdictions.
End of text box
Start of text box
In 2015/2016, there were on average 41,145 offenders, both adult and youth,Note 30 in custody on any given day in Canada, representing an incarceration rate of 115 persons in custody per 100,000 population. This was unchanged from the previous year.
Among the 19 countries of the G20 (excludes the European Union), Canada’s incarceration rate ranked 12th highest. The United States had the highest incarceration rate (698 persons in custody per 100,000 population) while India reported the lowest incarceration rate (33 persons in custody per 100,000 population).
Data table textbox 2 chart
|Country||rate per 100,000 population|
|Korea (Rep. of)||101|
|ChinaText box Note 1||119|
|England and Wales (UK)||148|
Sources: Walmsley, R. 2011. World Prison Brief - World Prison Population List (11th Edition), Institute for Criminal Policy Research; Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Corrections Key Indicator Report, 2015/2016.
End of text box
The Adult Correctional Services Survey (ACS) collects aggregate data on the number and case characteristics (e.g., sex, age group, Aboriginal identity, length of time served) of admissions to and releases from adult correctional services. The following jurisdictions responded to the ACS in 2015/2016: Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
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 admissions and releases by legal hold status (e.g. remand, sentenced, probation). The following jurisdictions responded to the ICSS in 2015/2016: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, British Columbia and Correctional Service Canada.
The Adult Corrections Key Indicator Report collects aggregate data on average daily custody counts and month-end supervised community corrections counts in the provincial/territorial and federal adult systems.