Admissions to adult correctional services in Canada, 2011/2012

By Samuel Perreault

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In Canada, there are two main measures of correctional services: admissions and average counts. Statistics Canada counts an admission every time an offender begins a period of custody or a community supervision program. Therefore, the same person will be counted as many times as his/her legal status has changed (e.g., going from remand to sentenced custody and then to community supervision).1 In turn, average counts provide a snapshot of the correctional population on a typical day. This Juristat bulletin provides an overview of the main trends in admissions based on data collected by the Adult Correctional Services Survey and the Integrated Correctional Services Survey for the 2011/2012 fiscal year.

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Administration of adult correctional services

In Canada, the administration of adult correctional services is a responsibility shared by the federal government and the provincial/territorial governments.

Custodial sentences of less than two years, remand (detention awaiting trial or sentencing) and sentences to be served in the community (such as probation or conditional sentences) are under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. Correctional Service Canada (CSC) is responsible for offenders whose sentences are two years or more and for supervising offenders on parole, except offenders on provincial parole in Quebec and Ontario.

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Number of admissions to adult correctional services is down slightly

For the 2011/2012 fiscal year, Canada’s adult correctional services as a whole reported a total of 413,951 admissions (Table 1). This was a slight decrease (-1%) from the number of admissions reported in the previous year. Nearly 400,000 of these admissions were to provincial and territorial correctional services, while slightly fewer than 15,000 were to federal correctional services.

Nine of the 14 jurisdictions2 recorded a decrease in their total number of admissions in 2011/2012. The Northwest Territories recorded the largest decrease (-11%). Alberta, Correctional Service Canada (federal) and Ontario followed with decreases of 3%. In contrast, Yukon recorded the largest increase (+7%) in its number of admissions, followed by Manitoba, Nunavut, Quebec and New Brunswick (+3%).

Number of admissions to custody remains stable

The decrease in the number of admissions to adult correctional services in 2011/2012 was primarily attributable to a drop in admissions to community service (-3%), such as conditional sentences and probation (Table 1). Nearly 4 in 10 admissions (37%) in 2011/2012 were to community supervision.

On the other hand, the number of admissions to custody remained relatively stable in 2011/2012. A total of 259,635 admissions to custody were recorded by adult correctional services. Of this number, more than half, or 148,135 admissions, were to remand (custody before or during trial) (Table 1).

The number of admissions to sentenced custody rose to just over 90,000, including approximately 85,000 provincial and territorial admissions and 5,200 federal admissions (Table 1). The number of admissions to remand was down for a fourth consecutive year, while conversely, the number of admissions to sentenced custody was up for a second consecutive year.

Among the jurisdictions, Yukon (+15%) and Manitoba (+7%) reported the largest year-to-year increases in their total admissions to custody. In Yukon, the increase was mainly the result of a rise in admissions to remand (+30%), while in Manitoba, admissions to both sentenced custody (+10%) and remand (+9%) increased.

Some admissions to provincial/territorial sentenced custody are for intermittent sentences. An intermittent sentence allows an offender to serve a sentence in segments, generally on weekends, while having to adhere to conditions when not in custody. Among other things, intermittent sentences allow offenders to serve short sentences (90 days or less) without having to be away from their work or studies. Approximately 17% of admissions to provincial/territorial sentenced custody in 2011/2012 were for intermittent sentences,3 up slightly from 16% in 2010/2011. This proportion varies from one jurisdiction to another, being generally higher in provinces east of Manitoba and lower in the Western provinces and the territories (Chart 1).

Chart 1

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Although provincial and territorial correctional services are responsible for offenders with sentences of up to two years less a day, about one-fifth (19%) of admissions to sentenced custody were for terms of one week or less, and close to half (48%) were for terms of one month or less.4 Custody of more than one year accounted for 6% of sentenced admissions to provincial and territorial correctional services. It should be noted, however, that the length of custody excludes time spent in remand.

The median number of days served by offenders released from provincial/territorial sentenced custody in 2011/2012 ranged from 12 days in Alberta to 76 days in Nunavut (Chart 2). The median time spent in remand—that is, before being either released or transferred to sentenced custody—was generally shorter, ranging from 4 days in Quebec to 25 days in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Chart 2

Description for chart 2

The majority of persons admitted to correctional services are men

The majority of persons admitted to correctional services in 2011/2012 were men. Overall, 85% of persons admitted were men and 15% were women.5 However, the proportions of men and women admitted to correctional services differed slightly depending on the type of supervision. In general, the proportion of women was somewhat lower for admissions to custody than for admissions to community supervision. Further, the proportion of women was lowest (7%) for federal custody, that is, for sentences of two years or more. Conversely, for admissions to probation and conditional sentences, the proportion of women reached 19% and 20% respectively (Table 2).

The age of persons admitted to custody is increasing

Similar to the Canadian population in general, the population being admitted to custody is aging. Sentenced custody admissions of offenders aged 50 and over increased by 28% between 2007/2008 and 2011/2012.6 This was the largest increase of any age group. The second highest increase (+10%) was recorded for the 25- to 29-year-old age group. During the same period, the number of admissions declined for 18- to 19-year-olds (-1%) and for people aged 35 to 44 (-10%).

Thus, while persons aged 50 and over accounted for 9% of admissions to sentenced custody in 2007/2008, they accounted for 11% in 2011/2012. Despite these changes, young adults continue to be overrepresented in admissions to sentenced custody. In 2011/2012, more than half (55%) of persons admitted were under 35 years of age, whereas they represented 29% of the Canadian population aged 18 and over.7

The increase in the proportion of admissions to sentenced custody represented by offenders aged 50 and over was greatest in Yukon, where the proportion went from 7% of admissions in 2007/2008 to 11% in 2011/2012. Relatively large increases were also noted in Saskatchewan (from 6% of sentenced admissions in 2007/2008 to 9% in 2011/2012), in Ontario (from 8% to 11%) and in federal facilities (from 10% to 13%). However, Quebec continued to have the highest median age for offenders admitted to sentenced custody, at 36 (Table 2).

Aboriginal adults are overrepresented in admissions to correctional services

Although the proportion of Aboriginal people8 within the Canadian adult population is just under 4%,9 Aboriginal people accounted for slightly more than one-quarter (28%) of admissions to sentenced custody in 2011/2012 (Table 2). For most other types of supervision, the proportion of Aboriginal adults among admissions was somewhat lower but was nevertheless higher than their proportion within the population. For example, Aboriginal adults accounted for 25% of admissions to remand and 21% of admissions to probation and conditional sentences.

In general, the overrepresentation of Aboriginal adults was greater among females than males. For example, Aboriginal people accounted for 43% of female admissions to provincial/territorial sentenced custody and 37% of women admitted to remand, which compares to 27% and 23% for male admissions.

The overrepresentation of Aboriginal adults in admissions to provincial/territorial sentenced custody was less pronounced in the Atlantic provinces and Quebec, where the proportion of Aboriginal adults in sentenced custody admissions was one to three times higher than their proportion within the population. In contrast, in Ontario and the Western provinces, the proportion of Aboriginal adults admitted to sentenced custody was six to nine times higher than their proportion within the general population (Chart 3).

Chart 3

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Operating expenditures for adult correctional services reached more than $4 billion in 2011/2012

In 2011/2012, operating expenditures for correctional services in Canada totaled more than $4 billion.10 After adjusting for inflation, this was an increase of 3% compared to the previous year.11 This increase was mainly the result of an increase in federal spending (+4%). The increase in provincial/territorial expenditures on corrections was less pronounced (+0.5%). Total operating expenditures for correctional services in 2011/2012 was equivalent to $127 per capita. Of this amount, slightly more than half, or $69, was spent for federal correctional services, with the remainder being spent for provincial and territorial correctional services (Table 3).

In provincial and territorial jurisdictions, custody was by far the biggest expenditure item, accounting for nearly 80% of operating expenditures. In contrast, community supervision accounted for 37% of provincial/territorial admissions, but it represented 16% of expenditures in 2011/2012. Administration and other central services represented 4% of expenditures.12

Survey descriptions

The Adult Correctional Services (ACS) Survey collects aggregate data on the number and case characteristics (e.g., sex, age groupings, Aboriginal identity, length of time served) of admissions to and releases from adult correctional services. The following jurisdictions responded to the ACS in 2011/2012: Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta (custodial data only), 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 legal hold status (e.g. remand, sentenced, probation). The following jurisdictions responded to the ICSS in 2011/2012: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta (community data only), British Columbia and Correctional Service Canada.

Detailed data tables

Table 1 Admissions to adult correctional services by jurisdiction and type of supervision, 2011/2012

Table 2 Admissions to adult correctional services, by characteristic of persons admitted, jurisdiction and type of supervision, 2011/2012

Table 3 Operating expenditures of the adult correctional system by jurisdiction, 2011/2012

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. The 14 jurisdictions are the 13 provincial/territorial jurisdictions and the Correctional Service Canada.
  3. Excludes Alberta due to the unavailability of data for the period covered.
  4. The calculation excludes Alberta due to the unavailability of data for the period covered.
  5. See note 3.
  6. See note 3.
  7. Source: July 1st populations estimates from Statistics Canada, Demography.
  8. The term “Aboriginal identity” designates individuals who reported being an Aboriginal person, that is, First Nations (North American Indian), Métis or Inuk (Inuit), and/or those who reported Registered or Treaty Indian status, which is, registered under the Indian Act of Canada, and/or those who reported membership in a First Nation or Indian band.
  9. Source: Statistics Canada, National Household Survey and Census, 2011.
  10. A breakdown of federal expenditures by sector was not available for the period covered. Operating expenditures exclude capital expenditures.
  11. Percent variation was adjusted for inflation using the all-items Consumer Price Index (CPI) for 2010 and 2011 (CANSIM table 326-0021).
  12. A breakdown of federal expenditures by sector was not available for the period covered.
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