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Adult and youth correctional services: Key indicators

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2007/2008 (Previous release)

Canada's incarceration rate in 2007/2008 rose by 2% from the previous year, the third consecutive annual increase. The gain was driven by the growing number of adults being held in remand in provincial/territorial jails while awaiting trial or sentencing.

Recent increases in the incarceration rate follow a period of relatively steady decline from 1996/1997 to 2004/2005.

On any given day in 2007/2008, an average of 36,330 adults and 2,018 youth aged 12 to 17 years were in custody in Canada, for a total of 38,348 inmates. In terms of a rate, this was 117 people in custody for every 100,000 population.

Canada's incarceration rate tends to be higher than those in most Western European countries, yet far lower than that of the United States. For instance, in 2007, Sweden had a rate of 74 people in custody per 100,000 population. In contrast, the rate in the United States for adults alone was 762. (The United States excludes youth from its rate.)

Chart 1
Canada's incarceration rate moving upwards

Number of adults held awaiting trial or sentencing higher than offenders serving a provincial/territorial sentence

The average number of adults held in remand increased by 8% in 2007/2008 to 12,888. The number has been rising since the mid-1980s.

An average of 9,750 adults were in provincial/territorial custody serving a sentence in 2007/2008.

The number of adults held in remand first surpassed the number in provincial/territorial sentenced custody in 2005/2006.

The average number of inmates who were in remand increased in all jurisdictions in 2007/2008, except Prince Edward Island. Nova Scotia and Alberta saw the largest increases.

Number of adults in federal prisons on the rise

In 2007/2008, there were 13,304 offenders in federal prisons, 3% more than the previous year.

Note to readers

Data in this release were collected by the Corrections Key Indicator Report (CKIR) survey for adult and youth. Data in this report are based on daily counts of adults and youth in custodial facilities and monthly counts of offenders under community supervision. These data are collected by correctional officials and reported to Statistics Canada by way of the CKIR.

Offenders who serve a sentence of less than two years are the responsibility of provincial and territorial governments, as are those held in remand or other temporary detention. Incarcerated people are those serving a custodial sentence and those in remand (i.e., in custody awaiting trial or sentencing) or other temporary detention (e.g., immigration hold).

The national incarceration rate is the average daily number of incarcerated adults and youth for every 100,000 people in the total population. Trends in the incarceration rate exclude Prince Edward Island and Nunavut as a result of missing data for certain years. Youth data for Quebec for 2007/2008 are estimates.

Federal offenders, those serving sentences of two years or more, accounted for about 4 in 10 adults in custody. Annual increases beginning in 2005/2006 have contributed to the growth in Canada's incarceration rate.

Number of adults serving conditional sentences declines

In 1996, conditional sentences were introduced to allow for a sentence of imprisonment to be served in the community under strict conditions, thus reducing the reliance on incarceration.

At the end of any given month in 2007/2008, there were 12,797 adults serving a conditional sentence in the community, 2% fewer than in the previous year.

This second year of decline follows a 10-year period of steady increases that occurred after the implementation of this sentencing option. This pattern reflects the use of conditional sentences by the courts.

Youth in remand outnumber youth in sentenced custody

The year 2007/2008 marked the first time since the introduction of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) that, on any given day, there were more young people aged 12 to 17 being held in remand awaiting trial or sentencing than those serving a custodial sentence.

The use of remand has increased since 2003/2004 when the YCJA came into effect. Prior to the introduction of the YCJA, remand counts for youth had been relatively stable.

The average number of young people held in remand while awaiting trial or sentencing reached 1,009 in 2007/2008. This was a 7% increase from the year before and a 19% increase from 2003/2004. There were 991 youth in sentenced custody in 2007/2008.

Youth in sentenced custody and on probation

Since the introduction of the YCJA in 2003, the average number of youth in sentenced custody on any given day has declined steadily. In 2007/2008, there were 36% fewer youth in sentenced custody than in 2003/2004.

The decrease in the average number of youth in sentenced custody since the enactment of the YCJA has offset the increase in the average number in remand. As a result, overall there have been fewer youth in custody in the years following the YCJA compared with years prior to its enactment.

The average number of young offenders on probation has also declined since the implementation of the new youth legislation. The new sentencing provisions of the YCJA require that youth serve the final third of custody sentences in the community under supervision. This mandatory supervision in the community could be contributing to a reduction in the use of probation.

Available on CANSIM: tables 251-0004 to 251-0006 and 251-0008.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3313.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Information and Client Services (toll-free 1-800-387-2231; 613-951-9023; fax: 613-951-6615), Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

Table 1
Average daily count of adults in custody, 2007/2008 

Table 2
Average daily count of youth in custody, 2007/2008