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Correctional Services in Canada - Statistics & Facts

Correctional services in Canada are operated by both the federal and provincial governments. Offenders who receive custodial sentences of greater than two years fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. All other offenders, including all youth offenders, fall under the responsibility of the provincial and territorial governments.

The federal department responsible for corrections in Canada is the Correctional Service of Canada. Prisons are organized under the security levels of minimum, maximum, and medium. The majority of offenders are considered a medium security risk. Canada’s incarceration rate is among the lowest of the world, with 104 people per 100,000 thousand behind bars in the nation. Since 2001, the federal incarceration rate has remained largely unchanged, with the rate for fiscal year 2020 standing at 46.16. The provincial and territorial incarceration rate, already higher, slightly increased over the same period, with fiscal year 2020’s rate at 78.66.

The vast majority of convicted offenders in Canada receive sentences of less than a month in provincial and territorial custody as of 2020. Canada also allows an indeterminate sentence to persons deemed to be dangerous offenders, offenders who are thought to be a continued threat to society. With this sentence a person can be incarcerated indefinitely. Their first chance of parole occurs after seven years and is then reviewed every two years. In the 2019 fiscal year, 171 people were sentenced to either life or an indeterminate sentence.

Canada has two forms of parole: day parole and full parole. An inmate is eligible for day parole six months before being eligible for full parole. It is seen as a preparatory step for full parole as it grants the inmate permission to engage in community-based activities during the day, while returning to a community residence or correctional institution in the evening. Full parole grants the offender the ability to rejoin society and live in a private residence while still reporting to a parole officer periodically. Day parole is granted at a far higher rate than full parole. In fiscal year 2019, 79.5 percent of eligible offenders were granted day parole, while only 38.2 percent were granted full parole.

There has been much criticism of the overrepresentation of Aboriginal inmates in incarceration, who make up roughly 23 percent of the total incarcerated population but only make up 4 percent of Canada’s total population. Since 2001, Aboriginal admissions to provincial and territorial custody have increased by 50 percent.

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