Youth correctional statistics in Canada, 2013/2014

by Correctional Services Program

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In Canada, correctional services for youth aged 12 to 17 years at the time of an offence are guided by the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA).  Among other things, this Act requires that the criminal justice system for youth be separate from that of adults; that the system be based on the principle of diminished moral blameworthiness or culpability; and that the system emphasize rehabilitation and reintegration, fair and proportionate accountability, enhanced procedural protection of young persons, and timely intervention (Youth Criminal Justice Act, 2002). The federal government is responsible for setting the legislative framework for youth justice. However, the provinces and territories are responsible for the administration of the legislation and thus for youth correctional services.Note 1

Each fiscal year, provincial and territorial governments report to Statistics Canada on their correctional services programs, both custody and community. This Juristat Bulletin uses three complementary measures to describe the use of youth correctional services: average counts, initial entry and admissions. Average counts provide a snapshot of the correctional population and represent the number of youth in custody or under community supervision on any given day.Note 2 Initial entry represents the number of youth entering the youth corrections system for a period of supervision.Note 3 Admissions describe the movements of youth from the time they enter correctional services until they leave.  An admission is counted each time an individual begins or moves to any type of custody or community program.Note 4 The same person can be included several times in the admissions counts whenever the individual moves from one type of legal status to another (e.g., from pre-trial detention to probation).

Data for this Bulletin come from three different surveys. The Youth Corrections Key Indicator Report provides information on average daily counts. The Youth Custody and Community Services (YCCS) survey and the Integrated Correctional Services Survey (ICSS) are the source of initial entry and admissions data. With the exception of Alberta and Quebec, all provinces and territories provided average counts data in 2013/2014. Average count data for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are limited to custody counts, meaning community and overall average counts are available for 9 rather than 11 jurisdictions.  All provinces except Nova Scotia, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta provided data to either the YCCS or ICSS surveys in 2013/2014. Manitoba data is limited to admissions counts, meaning admissions data are available for 9 jurisdictions while initial entry is available for 8.

The rate of youth involved in the correctional system continues to fall

The majority of youth who are involved with the youth correctional system are being supervised in community corrections rather than in custody.Note 5 In 2013/2014, for the nine reporting jurisdictions, there were 9,458 youth being supervised on an average day (Table 1).Note 6 Of this total, 90% were being supervised in the community, primarily while serving a sentence of probation. These findings are consistent with the YCJA sentencing principles which state that all sanctions other than custody should be considered for youth whenever appropriate. The average daily rate of youth involved in correctional services was 63 per 10,000 youth population. This was down 9% from the year before and 25% from five years earlier. The youth crime rate has also been decreasing over the last decade (Boyce et al. 2014).

There were declines in both the youth custody and community populations in 2013/2014.  On average 8,514 youth were being supervised in the community on a typical day.  This equated to a rate of 57 young persons per 10,000 youth, a figure that was down 9% from the previous year and 26% lower than five years earlier.  There were 1,019 young persons in custody on any given day, resulting in a youth incarceration rate of 6 per 10,000 youth population.Note 7 The youth incarceration rate declined from 7 per 10,000 youth in 2012/2013 and dropped for the sixth consecutive year, continuing the downward trend since the rate peaked in the mid-1990s (Chart 1).

Chart 1

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Youth incarceration rates were highest in Manitoba and Nunavut, reporting rates of 29 and 22 youth in custody per 10,000 youth population, respectively (Table 2). Rates were lowest in British Columbia (2 per 10,000 population) and Ontario (4 per 10,000 population). In 2013⁄2014, the incarceration rate fell in all but three jurisdictions.

Majority of youth begin a period of supervision on probation or in pre-trial detention

The number of youth entering the correctional system, that is the initial entry, declined in 2013/2014. In the eight reporting jurisdictions, there were 6,530 youth who began an involvement with correctional services. This represented a decline of 22% from the previous year (Table 3).  The largest decrease was 27%, reported by both Ontario and Yukon.  Nunavut was the only jurisdiction to report an increase (+6%).

Most youth begin their involvement with the youth correctional system in the community, rather than in custody.  In 2013/2014, more than 7 in 10 youth involvements began in the community (Table 3). More specifically, most youth began their period of involvement serving a term of probation (51%). As well, over one-quarter of involvements (27%) began when a youth entered pre-trial detention.Note 8

Admissions decline in most jurisdictions

An admission is counted each time a youth begins or moves from one type of correctional supervision to another. Of the nine reporting jurisdictions in 2013/2014, a total of 20,975 admissions to correctional services were observed (Table 4). Overall, there was a 14% decline in youth admissions with almost all jurisdictions reporting decreases from the previous year. Only the Northwest Territories (4%) and Nunavut (30%) recorded increases.

Most admissions to youth correctional services involve males

The characteristics (sex, age and Aboriginal status) of youth involved in correctional services are available for the admissions data collected through the YCCS 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. 

Males continue to represent the majority of youth admissions to correctional services. In 2013/2014, 77% of all admissions to correctional services in the nine reporting jurisdictions were male youth (Table 5).Note 9 This proportion has remained constant for the past five years and is consistent across most types of correctional supervision.  Admissions of males were most prevalent in sentenced custody, where 84% of admissions were attributable to male youth in 2013/2014. 

Majority of admissions to the correctional system involve older youth

Youth correctional services supervise young people who were between the ages of 12 and 17 years at the time of the offence.  Youth who have turned 18 or older may remain in the youth system because they were under 18 at the time of the offence. 

Most admissions to correctional services in 2013/2014 involved older youth.Note 10 In particular, for the nine reporting jurisdictions, almost 7 in 10 admissions (69%) involved youth 16 years or older and nearly 9 in 10 admissions (87%) involved youth who were at least 15 years old (Table 5). Youth aged 12 years represented 1% of total admissions, a finding that has been consistent for the last five years.

Aboriginal youth are over-represented in the correctional system

As in previous years, a disproportionate share of admissions to youth correctional services in 2013/2014 involved Aboriginal youth.  For the nine reporting jurisdictions, Aboriginal youth accounted for 41% of all admissions while representing 7% of the youth population in these same jurisdictions (Statistics Canada 2014) (Table 5).Note 11

The disparity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth was more pronounced among girls.  Aboriginal girls accounted for 53% of female youth admitted to the corrections system, whereas 38% of males admitted were Aboriginal youth.

Time spent in custody shorter for female youth

The time spent by youth in custody in 2013/2014 was similar to the previous year. For the nine reporting jurisdictions, 54% of youth released from pre-trial detention were in custody for one week or less.  In the case of youth released from sentenced custody, 42% were there for one month or less. 

The time spent in custody for female youth tends to be shorter. Overall, 62% of female youth released from pre-trial detention in 2013/2014, spent less than one week, compared to 52% of males (Chart 2).  Similarly, half of all females (51%) sentenced to custody served one month or less, compared to 41% of males (Chart 3).  Furthermore, the proportion of females who spent more than six months in sentenced custody was about half that of males (6% and 11%, respectively).

Chart 2

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Chart 3

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Survey descriptions

The Youth Custody and Community Services (YCCS) survey collects aggregate data on the number and characteristics (e.g., age, sex, Aboriginal identity) of youth admissions to and releases from correctional services. The following jurisdictions reported survey data in 2013/2014: 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., age, sex, Aboriginal identity) as well as information pertaining to correctional supervision including legal hold status (e.g., pre-trial detention, sentenced custody, probation). The following jurisdictions provided youth data to the ICSS in 2013/2014: Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Ontario, and British Columbia.

The Youth Corrections Key Indicator Report (CKIR-Youth) provides data that are used to calculate average counts of youth 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: Prince Edward Island (2005/2006 for data on community supervision); Nova Scotia (2006/2007 to 2013/2014 for data on community supervision); New Brunswick (2003/2004 to 2013/2014 for data on community supervision); Quebec (2011/2012 to 2013/2014); Alberta (2013/2014); Northwest Territories (2003/2004 to 2007/2008 for data on community supervision).

Detailed data tables

Table 1 Average counts of youth in correctional services, nine jurisdictions, 2013/2014

Table 2 Average counts of youth in correctional services, province and territory, 2013/2014

Table 3 Initial entry of youth into correctional services by legal hold status, eight jurisdictions, 2013/2014

Table 4 Admissions of youth to correctional services, by province and territory, 2013/2014

Table 5 Admissions of youth to correctional services, by characteristics of the person admitted and supervision program, nine jurisdictions, 2013/2014

References

Boyce, J., A. Cotter and S. Perrault. 2014. “Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2013.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X.

Statistics Canada. 2014. National Household Survey (NHS), 2011, special tabulation.

Youth Criminal Justice Act, S.C. 2002, c. 1, section 3 and preamble. http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/y-1.5/ (site accessed January 2nd, 2014).

Notes

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