Adult and youth correctional statistics in Canada, 2017/2018

by Jamil Malakieh

Release date: May 9, 2019

In Canada, the administration of correctional services is a shared responsibility between the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The Correctional Service of Canada is responsible for the federal system and 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). Those adults that are serving custodial sentences that are less than two years, or who are being held while awaiting trial or sentencing (remand), and those serving community sentences, such as probation, fall under the purview of the provincial and territorial correctional services programs. For youth, the provinces and territories are responsible for administering correctional services for both custody and community sentences, including youth being held while awaiting trial or sentencing (pre-trial detention).

This Juristat article provides an overview of adult and youth correctional services in Canada in 2017/2018.Note  The use of correctional services is described using three measures: average counts, admissions and initial entries. Average counts provide a snapshot of the correctional population and represent the number of adults and youth in custody or under community supervision on any given day. Admissions are counted each time an individual begins or moves to a new type of custody or community supervision over the fiscal year: the same person can be included numerous times in the admissions count, as he/she move from one type of supervision to another. As such, the count of admissions provides an important indicator of the flow of persons through the correctional system for a given year. For youth specifically, initial entries represent the number of youth entering the correctional system for a period of supervision (for additional information see Text box 1).

The measures presented in this article provide an overview of the current state of correctional populations and the workload of correctional services in Canada, and highlight changes over time. This Juristat article also provides information regarding the characteristics of persons admitted in order to identify those most represented in the correctional system. This information aims to bring to light how correctional populations have changed, and highlight matters in need of further consideration.

Adult correctional services

Adult incarceration rate continues to decline

The adult incarceration rate represents the average number of adults in custody per day for every 100,000 individuals in the adult population (18 years and older). It includes adults in sentenced custody, remand and other temporary detention.

Adults in remand outnumber those in provincial/territorial sentenced custody

Most adults are under community supervision

Admissions to adult correctional services decrease slightly

An admission is counted each time an individual begins any type of custody or community supervision program therefore it is a measure of activity within the correctional services programs. 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 or pre-trial detention to sentenced custody) or re-enters the system later in the same year.

Adults who identify as an Aboriginal person are overrepresented in custody

Younger male adults are overrepresented in custody admissions

Majority of adults spend less than a month in provincial and territorial custody

Operating expenditures increased in adult correctional services

Youth correctional services

In Canada, the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), enacted in 2003, is the legislation that governs how youth aged 12 to 17 years are to be dealt with by the Canadian justice system. The Act provides for a separate youth justice system based on the principle of diminished moral blameworthiness or culpability of youth.

Rate of youth in correctional services continues to decline

Youth incarceration rate continues to decline

Majority of youth enter correctional services under community supervision

Initial entry measures the number of youth commencing an uninterrupted period of correctional supervision and provides an indication of new workload entering the correctional system. Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the youth criminal justice system supports crime prevention by referring young persons to community programs or agencies when appropriate to address offending behaviour.

Youth admissions to correctional services decline

In contrast to an initial entry, which measures an uninterrupted period of correctional supervision, admissions are counted each time a person begins any period of supervision in a correctional institution or in the community. The same person may be included several times in the admission counts when moving from one correctional program to another (e.g., from remand or pre-trial detention to sentenced custody) or re-enters the system later in the same year.

Aboriginal youth continue to be overrepresented in the correctional system

Males and older youth account for the majority of youth admissions

Time spent in custody is brief among youth

Start of text box 1

Text box 1
Corrections surveys concepts and coverage

Average counts provide a snapshot of the adult or youth corrections population and represent the number of youth or adults in custody or under community supervision on any given day. Usually, corrections officials perform daily counts of persons in their facilities and month-end counts of those under community supervision. These are used to calculate the annual average daily custody and community counts used in this article.

Initial entry represents the first point at which a youth or adult commences an uninterrupted period of supervision in the correctional system. Each person is counted only once during their period of involvement with correctional services, regardless of subsequent changes in legal status. Initial entry provides an indication of new workload entering correctional services.

Admissions 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 or pre-trial detention 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 pre-trial detention, sentenced custody or a community supervision program, regardless of the previous legal status.

The adult incarceration rate represents the average number of adults in custody per day for every 100,000 individuals in the adult population (aged 18 years and older). It includes adults in sentenced custody, remand and other temporary detention.

The youth incarceration rate represents the average number of youth in secure or open custody per day for every 10,000 individuals in the youth population (aged 12 to 17 years). It includes youth in sentenced custody, youth in Provincial Director Remand being held following the breach of a community supervision condition, youth in pre-trial detention awaiting trial or sentencing, and youth in other temporary detention.

Changes in rates are calculated using unrounded numbers and therefore may not be equivalent to the change of the presented figures.

Jurisdictions excluded from particular analyses due to non-reporting are noted throughout the article. The provinces and territories that did not report complete data for 2017/2018 are as follows:

Adult

  • Average counts data exclude Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Yukon (community supervision and total correctional services).

Youth

  • Average counts, initial entries and admissions data exclude Quebec.
  • Average counts data exclude Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (community supervision and total correctional services).
  • Initial entry data exclude Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Alberta, Yukon and Prince Edward Island (community supervision and total correctional services).
  • Admissions data exclude Nova Scotia, Alberta and Yukon.

These data are administrative and jurisdictions are asked to provide data in a standardized way following certain definitions; however, 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.

It should be noted that some of the jurisdictional counts presented in this analysis, particularly those for youth in custody, are small. As a result, small changes in the counts can lead to large year-over-year percentage changes.

End of text box 1

Charts

Chart 1 Average daily rate of adults in provincial/territorial custody, 2013/2014 to 2017/2018

Data table for Chart 1 
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1 2013/2014, 2014/2015, 2015/2016, 2016/2017 and 2017/2018, calculated using rate per 100,000 adult population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
2013/2014 2014/2015 2015/2016 2016/2017 2017/2018
rate per 100,000 adult population
Sentenced custody (provincial/territorial)Data table Note 1 39 37 35 33 32
Remand (provincial/territorial)Data table Note 2 46 45 48 49 47

Chart 2 Proportion of adult average daily counts to remand and sentenced custody, 2017/2018

Data table for Chart 2 
Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2 Alta., Ont., Man., N.S., B.C., Y.T., N.W.T, Nvt. , Sask., N.L., N.B., Que. and P.E.I., calculated using percent of average daily counts units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Alta. Ont. Man. N.S. B.C. Y.T. N.W.T. Nvt. Sask. N.L. N.B. Que. P.E.I.
percent of average daily counts
Remand (provincial/territorial)Data table Note 1 70 69 69 65 65 62 58 55 48 46 46 43 27
Sentenced custody (provincial/territorial)Data table Note 2 30 31 31 35 35 38 42 45 52 54 54 57 73

Chart 3 Adult provincial/territorial admissions to custody, by age group and sex, 2017/2018

Data table for Chart 3 
Data table for Chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 3 Age group (years), 18 to 19, 20 to 24, 25 to 29, 30 to 34, 35 to 39, 40 to 44, 45 to 49 and 50 and older, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age group (years)
18 to 19 20 to 24 25 to 29 30 to 34 35 to 39 40 to 44 45 to 49 50 and older
percent
Male 3 14 17 15 12 8 6 9
Female 1 3 3 3 2 1 1 1

Chart 4 Adult federal admissions to custody, by age group and sex, 2017/2018

Data table for Chart 4 
Data table for Chart 4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 4 Age group (years), 18 to 19, 20 to 24, 25 to 29, 30 to 34, 35 to 39, 40 to 44, 45 to 49 and 50 and older, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age group (years)
18 to 19 20 to 24 25 to 29 30 to 34 35 to 39 40 to 44 45 to 49 50 and older
percent
Male 1 12 18 17 13 9 8 15
Female 0 1 2 2 1 1 1 1

Chart 5 Releases from adult provincial/territorial custody, by type of custody, sex and time served, 2017/2018

Data table for Chart 5 
Data table for Chart 5
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 5 Type of custody and sex, Sentenced custody males, Sentenced custody females, Remand males and Remand females, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Type of custody and sex
Sentenced custody males Sentenced custody females Remand males Remand females
percent
1 week or less 30 36 50 59
Greater than 1 week to 1 month 29 32 24 24
Greater than 1 month to 6 months 31 28 21 15
More than 6 months 10 5 5 2

Chart 6 Youth admissions to correctional services, by sex and age, 2017/2018

Data table for Chart 6 
Data table for Chart 6
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 6 Age (years), 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 and older, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age (years)
12 13 14 15 16 17 18 and older
percentData table Note 1
Male 1 3 6 13 18 23 13
Female 0 1 3 4 6 6 3

Chart 7 Youth time served, by legal hold status, 2017/2018

Data table for Chart 7 
Data table for Chart 7
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 7 Time served, 1 month or less, Greater than 1 month
to 6 months, Greater than 6 months
to 1 year, Greater than 1 year
to 2 years and More than 2 years, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Time served
1 month or less Greater than 1 month
to 6 months
Greater than 6 months
to 1 year
Greater than 1 year
to 2 years
More than 2 years
percent
Pre-trial detention 78 19 2 0 0
Sentenced custody 40 49 8 3 0
Supervised probation 1 5 43 36 15

Detailed data tables

Table 1 Average daily counts of adults in correctional services, by type of supervision and jurisdiction, 2017/2018

Table 2 Average daily counts of adults under correctional supervision, by type of supervision and jurisdiction, 2017/2018

Table 3 Admissions to adult correctional services, by type of supervision and jurisdiction, 2017/2018

Table 4 Admissions to adult custody, by Aboriginal identity, jurisdiction, 2007/2008 and 2017/2018

Table 5 Admissions to adult custody, by sex, Aboriginal identity and jurisdiction, 2017/2018

Table 6 Operating expenditures of the adult correctional system, by jurisdiction, 2017/2018

Table 7 Average daily counts of youth in correctional services, by type of supervision and jurisdiction, 2017/2018

Table 8 Initial entry of youth into correctional services, by type of supervision, selected jurisdictions, 2017/2018

Table 9 Admissions of youth to correctional services, by type of supervision and jurisdiction, 2017/2018

Table 10 Admissions of youth to correctional services, by characteristics of the person admitted and type of supervision program, selected jurisdictions, 2017/2018

Key terminology and definitions

Community portion of custody sentence: This is the portion of the young person’s custody sentence (intensive rehabilitative custody and conditional supervision, custody and conditional supervision, or custody and community supervision) that must be served in the community under supervision. The Youth Criminal Justice Act stipulates that the final one-third of most custody sentences shall be served under community supervision.

Conditional sentences: This is an adult sentencing option where the person is given a conditional sentence of imprisonment that is served in the community. According to the terms of the conditional sentence, the offender will serve the term of imprisonment in the community provided that he/she abides by conditions imposed by the court as part of the conditional sentence order. If the offender violates these conditions, he/she may be sent to prison to serve the balance of that sentence.

Deferred custody and supervision: Similar to a conditional sentence with adult sentencing, deferred custody is a community-based alternative to a custodial sentence for youth. Under a deferred custody order, the young person will serve his/her sentence in the community under a set of strict conditions. If these conditions are not followed, the young person may be sent to custody to serve the balance of that sentence.

Intensive support and supervision: Similar to probation, an intensive support and supervision order is a youth sentencing option that is served in the community under conditions, but provides closer monitoring and support than a probation order to assist the young person in changing his/her behavior. This is an “opt-in” sanction under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, meaning that provinces and territories may choose not to implement this option.

Intermittent sentences: This refers to an adult sentence to custody which is to be served periodically over an extended period of time (e.g., weekend only or select days of the week).

Pre-trial detention: This is the temporary detention of a youth in custody, while awaiting trial or sentencing.

Probation: A common type of community-based sentence, where the young person or adult is placed under the supervision of a probation officer or other designated person. There are mandatory conditions (e.g., keep the peace) and there may be optional conditions that are put in place for the duration of the probation order.

Provincial Director Remand: When a young person is serving the community portion of a custody and supervision order or a deferred custody and supervision order, and the provincial director has reasonable grounds to believe that the young person has breached, or is about to breach, a condition of the young person’s conditional supervision, the provincial director may issue a warrant of apprehension to suspend the conditional supervision and remand the young person in an appropriate youth facility.

Remand: Remand is the detention of an adult temporarily in custody, while awaiting trial or sentencing.

Sentenced custody (youth): Youth being held in sentenced custody can be held in secure or open facilities.

Secure custody: A facility is considered “secure” when youth offenders are detained by security devices, including those facilities which operate with full perimeter security features and/or where youth are under constant observation. The extent to which facilities are “secure” varies across jurisdictions.

Open custody: A facility is considered “open” when there is minimal use of security devices or perimeter security. The extent to which facilities are “open” varies across jurisdictions. Open custody facilities include community residential centres, group homes, childcare institutions, forest or wilderness camps, etc.

Survey description

The Adult Correctional Services Survey (ACS) collects aggregate data on the number and 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 2017/2018: Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Manitoba, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

The Adult Corrections Key Indicator Report (CKIR-A) collects aggregate data on average daily custody counts and month-end supervised community corrections counts in the provincial/territorial and federal adult systems. The following exclusions are noted for historical data: Newfoundland and Labrador (2009/2010 for data on community supervision), Prince Edward Island (2005/2006), Nova Scotia (2006/2007 to 2015/2016 for data on community supervision), Alberta (2013/2014 all data and 2014/2015 for data on community supervision) and the Northwest Territories (2003/2004 to 2007/2008 for data on community supervision). The following jurisdictions responded to the CKIR-A in 2017/2018: Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

The Youth Corrections Key Indicator Report (CKIR-Y) collects aggregate data on average daily custody counts and month-end supervised community corrections counts for youth under correctional supervision. The following exclusions are noted for historical data: Prince Edward Island (2005/2006 for data on community supervision), Nova Scotia (2006/2007 to 2015/2016 for data on community supervision), New Brunswick (2004/2005 to 2015/2016 for data on community supervision), Quebec (2011/2012 to 2015/2016), Alberta (2013/2014 for data on both custody and community supervision and 2014/2015 for data on community supervision) and the Northwest Territories (2004/2005 to 2007/2008 for data on community supervision). The following jurisdictions responded to the CKIR-Y in 2017/2018: Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

The Youth Custody and Community Services Survey (YCCS) collects aggregate data on the number and characteristics (e.g., sex, age, Aboriginal identity) of youth admissions to and releases from correctional services. The following jurisdictions reported survey data in 2017/2018: Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, 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., sex, age, 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 2017/2018: Newfoundland and Labrador (adults only), Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Correctional Service of Canada.

The Canadian Correctional Services Survey (CCSS) was designed as a replacement for the ICSS. It also 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, 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 CCSS in 2017/2018: Newfoundland and Labrador (youth only) Saskatchewan, Alberta (adults only) and British Columbia.

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