Adult correctional statistics in Canada, 2013/2014

by Correctional Services Program

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In Canada, the administration of adult correctional services is a shared responsibility between the federal and provincial/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 (i.e. parole or statutory release). The provincial/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.

This Juristat Bulletin provides an overview of the operation of adult correctional services in Canada for the 2013/2014 fiscal year, focusing on two main measures of correctional services: average daily counts and admissions. Average counts provide a snapshot of the correctional population and represent the number of adults in custody or under community supervision on any given day.Note 1 Admissions describe the movement of adults from the time they enter correctional services until they leave. An admission is counted each time an individual begins or moves to a new type of custody or community supervision. 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 probation).Note 2 A third measure—initial entry—is also presented. It represents the number of adults that begin a period of supervision in correctional services during the year.

Data for this Bulletin come from three different surveys. The Adult Corrections Key Indicator Report provides information on average daily counts. The Adult Correctional Services (ACS) survey and the Integrated Correctional Services Survey (ICSS) are the source of admissions data. With the exception of Alberta, all provinces and territories as well as Correctional Service Canada (federal corrections) provided data in 2013/2014.Note 3 Average count data for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are limited to custody counts, meaning community and overall average counts are available for 10 rather than 12 jurisdictions.

Fewer adults are being supervised by the correctional system

In 2013/2014, on any given day, there were on average 139,337 adult offenders being supervised in either provincial/territorial or federal correctional services.Note 4 In the 10 reporting provinces and territories for which both custody and community data were available, there were a total of 116,442 adult offenders in either custody or a community program on a given day. This represents a rate of 492 offenders per 100,000 adult population, a decrease of 4% from the previous year and a decline of 12% compared to five years earlier (Table 1). In addition, on a typical day, there were 22,895 adult offenders in the federal correctional system. This represented a rate of 81 per 100,000 adult population, a figure that was down 3% from the previous year. However, compared to 2009/2010, the federal rate was up (4%).Note 5

More than 8 in 10 adults under correctional supervision in the provinces and territories in 2013/2014 were in the community (82%) and the remaining 18% were in custody.Note 6

Incarceration rate is down but there is variation across the country

In 2013/2014, there were 36,845 adults in custody on an average day, with 21,704 of those adults in provincial/territorial custodyNote 7 and 15,141 in federal custodyNote 8 (Table 1). This translates into a provincial/territorial incarceration rate of 87 offenders per 100,000 adult population, a decrease of 3% from the previous year. The federal incarceration rate moved in the opposite direction, increasing by 3% from the previous year to 54 offenders per 100,000 adult population.

The decline in the provincial/territorial incarceration rate was not uniform across the country. The rate declined in 5 of the 12 reporting provinces and territories.

In the provinces, the highest rate of incarceration was reported by Manitoba at 242 per 100,000 adult population, while British Columbia recorded the lowest incarceration rate (65 per 100,000 adult population).

More adults are in remand than in sentenced custody

In 2013/2014, on an average day, there were 11,493 adults in remand (in custody awaiting trial or sentencing) and 9,889 in sentenced custody in the 12 reporting provinces and territories (Table 2). For the last 10 years, the remand population has consistently exceeded the sentenced population (Chart 1). Adults in remand accounted for 54% of the custodial population in 2013/2014.Note 9

Chart 1

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In 5 of the 12 reporting jurisdictions, there were more offenders being held in remand than in sentenced custody in 2013/2014. Nova Scotia had the highest proportion of its custodial population in remand (66% of the total), while Prince Edward Island had the lowest proportion, at 18%.

Probation is the most common form of community supervision

On any given day in 2013/2014, in the 10 provinces and territories for which community data were reported, there was an average of 95,680 adult offenders being supervised through community programs such as probation and conditional sentences (Table 1). As well, Correctional Service Canada supervised an average of 7,754 offenders per day on day parole, full parole, or statutory release.

In provincial/territorial corrections, probation is by far the most common supervision program. On average, there were 84,905 adult offenders on probation on any given day in 2013/2014, representing 89% of the community population and 73% of all adults under correctional supervision in the provinces and territories (Table 2).

In provincial/territorial corrections, the rate of adult offenders being supervisedNote 10 in the community stood at 404 adults per 100,000 population in 2013/2014 (Table 1). This represented a decrease of 5% from the previous year. The rate of federal offenders in community supervision declined 13% to a rate of 27 adults per 100,000 population.

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Canada’s incarceration rate is similar to the majority of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries

In 2013/2014, there were on average 37,864 offenders, both adult and youth, in custody on any given day in Canada, representing an overall incarceration rate of 118 persons in custodyNote 1 per 100,000 population. This represented a decline of 1% from the previous year.

Among the countries of the OECD, Canada’s incarceration rate ranks in the middle. The United States had the highest incarceration rate (707 persons in custody per 100,000 population) while Iceland reported the lowest incarceration rate (45 persons in custody per 100,000 population). Canada’s rate was about one-sixth that of the United States, but higher than that of many European countries of similar social and economic development.

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Number of admissions to adult correctional services declining

Admissions measure the number of times an adult moves from one type of correctional supervision to another. In 2013/2014, admissions to federal and provincial/territorial adult correctional services in the 12 reporting provinces and territories totalled about 341,800Note 11 (Table 3). This represented a decrease of 3% from the previous year and 6% from five years earlier. Almost 95% of all admissions were to provincial/territorial corrections.

Among the reporting jurisdictions,Note 12 the majority reported a decrease in their total number of admissions in 2013/2014, both in custody (-3%) and in community admissions (-2%). The largest overall decreases (-8%) were recorded by Ontario and New Brunswick. In contrast, Nunavut recorded the largest increase (+9%) (Table 3).

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Status of adults on initial entryNote 1 into correctional services

In 2013/2014, there were 99,383 adults that entered the correctional system in the six reporting provinces. This was down 6% from the previous year. Ontario reported the largest decrease (-9%) and Saskatchewan reported the only increase (3%) from 2012/2013 (Text box 2 table).

Remand was the most common point at which adults entered the correctional system in New Brunswick (34% of initial entries), Nova Scotia (38%), Saskatchewan (41%), and Ontario (50%). The commencement of bail supervision was the most common point of initial entry in British Columbia (53%), one of only two reporting provinces that supervise bail. Probation was the most common initial status in Newfoundland and Labrador (41%).

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Males account for the majority of admissions to adult correctional services

The characteristics (sex, age and aboriginal status) of adults involved in correctional services are available for the admissions data collected through the ACS and ICSS. This means that the same person may be represented several times in the data as they move from one type of correctional supervision to another.

In 2013/2014, men represented the majority (85%) of persons admitted to provincial and territorial correctional services. While accounting for 15% of overall admissions, women made up for a smaller share of admissions to custody (13%) than to community supervision (20%) (Table 4). Further, women made up an even smaller share of admissions to sentenced custody, 11% in the provinces and territories and 6% federally.

Most admissions involve younger adults

In 2013/2014, adults under 35 years old accounted for 58% of admissions to provincial/territorial corrections (Chart 2). This was unchanged from five years earlier. Young adults are overrepresented in admissions to adult correctional services given that individuals between 18 and 34 years of age represent 29% of the Canadian population.Note 13 A similar trend is also true for custodial admissions to federal correctional services where the majority (53%) of adults admitted were under 35 years of age.

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Aboriginal adults account for one in four admissions to provincial/territorial correctional services

Aboriginal adultsNote 14 are overrepresented in admissions to provincial/territorial correctional services, as they accounted for nearly one-quarter (24%) of admissionsNote 15 in 2013/2014 while representing 3% of the Canadian adult populationNote 16 (Table 4). Aboriginal adults to federal correctional services represented 20% of admissions to sentenced custody in 2013/2014.

Aboriginal people made up 26% of total custodial admissions in the provinces and territories in 2013/2014. This was higher than for admissions to community supervision, where Aboriginal people accounted for 23% of total community admissions.

Aboriginal females accounted for a higher proportion of female admissions to provincial/territorial sentenced custody (36%) than did Aboriginal males for male admissions (25%).

Most adults spend one month or less in provincial/territorial custody

About one-quarter (26%) of offenders released from provincial/territorial sentenced custody in the 12 reporting jurisdictions in 2013/2014 served a term of one week or less, and more than half (57%) were held for terms of one month or lessNote 17 (Chart 3). In comparison in 2009/2010 when the proportion of offenders serving one week or less was higher (28%) and the proportion of offenders serving terms of 1 month or more was lower (44% compared to 46% in 2013/2014).

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The length of time spent in remand tends to be short. More than half (54%) of adult offenders released from remand in 2013/2014 were held for one week or less and more than three-quarters (78%) were held for one month or less (Chart 3).

Operating expenditures for adult correctional services reached more than $4 billion in 2013/2014

In 2013/2014, operating expenditures for correctional services in Canada totalled $4.6 billion, an increase of 5% from the previous year after adjusting for inflation.Note 18 Total operating expenditures for correctional services, which include money spent on wages and salaries, professional services, training, and travel, was equivalent to $130 for each person in the Canadian population. Of this amount, two-thirds ($69) was spent for federal correctional services, with the remainder being spent for provincial and territorial correctional services (Table 5).

The costs for federal adult correctional services are typically higher than the provincial and territorial system. On average, in 2013/2014, institutional expenditures amounted to about $298 per day for federal offenders, compared to about $196 per day per provincial and territorial offenders (Table 5).

Survey descriptions

The Adult Correctional Services (ACS) Survey 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 2013/2014: Prince Edward Island, Quebec, 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., 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 2013/2014: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Correctional Service Canada.

The Adult Corrections Key Indicator Report provides data that are used to calculate average counts of adults under correctional supervision. Usually, correctional officials perform daily counts of inmates in their facilities and monthly counts of offenders under community supervision. 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 2013/2014 for data on community supervision); Alberta (2012/2013 to 2013/2014 all data); and, the Northwest Territories (2003/2004 to 2007/2008 for data on community supervision).

Detailed data tables

Text box 2 table Initial entry of adults into correctional services, by type of supervision and by province, 2013/2014

Table 1 Average counts of adults in correctional services, by jurisdiction, 2013/2014

Table 2 Average counts of adults under correctional supervision, by type of supervision and jurisdiction, 2013/2014

Table 3 Admissions to adult correctional services by type of supervision and jurisdiction, 2013/2014

Table 4 Admissions to adult correctional services, by characteristic of persons admitted, type of supervision and jurisdiction, 2013/2014

Table 5 Operating expenditures of the adult correctional system by jurisdiction, 2013/2014

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