Everything you were never taught about Canada's prison systems:
A primer on Canada's urgent Human Rights crisis (pdf) by: IntersectionalAnalyst.com
A Brief History of Prisons & Resistance to them in so-called Canada (pdf)
Adult and Youth Correctional Statistics in Canada (2017/18)
Federal Prison Statistics (Correctional Investigator's Report: 2016)
Prisoner Deaths in Federal Custody in Canada (Incomplete)
Prisoner Deaths in Provincial Custody in Canada (Incomplete)
Segregation Statistics: Youth in Canada (Incomplete - 2019)
Segregation Statistics for Oct-Dec 2015 (Ontario Provincial)
Operating Costs Totalled more than $5 Billion (2017/18)
How many are in prison in Canada?
In 2017/18, on a given day 38,786 adults and 792 youth (aged 12 to 17 years) were in prison in Canada (Federal & Provincial), for a total of 39,578 prisoners.
Is this number going up?
At 131 per 100,000 population, Canada's 2017/18 adult incarceration rate is down 4% from the previous year.
Adults in remand (Pre-Trial Detention) continued to exceed those in the sentenced prison population. The rate of those in remand was significantly higher at 47 prisoners per 100,000 population, while those in sentenced prison represented a rate of 32 per 100,000 population.
Is this the same for men and women?
In the last ten years, the number of women admitted to Federal prisons increased 32.3% from 232 in 1998-99 to 307 in 2007-08. During the same time period, there was an increase of 6.6% in the number of men admitted to Federal prisons. As of April 13, 2008, there were 495 women in Federal prisons.
In 2015 there were about 600 women in Federal prisons and roughly 6,000 others in Provincial prisons. About two-thirds of them have children, and many have young children.
What is the average age of prisoners?
The average age upon admission in 2010-11 is 33 years of age (CSC). This is roughly the same for men and women. However, the average age of Aboriginal inmates is lower, 29.
Prisoner age at admission to Federal prisons is increasing. In 2010-11, 12.1% of the Federal incarcerated population is age 50 or over, compared to 8.1% between 2001-02.
What is the literacy/ education level of prisoners?
65% of people entering prisons have less than a Grade 8 education or level of literacy skills.
79% of people entering Canadian prisons don’t have their high school diploma.
Up to 30% reduction in recidivism can be achieved through programming depending on the level of literacy the prisoner achieves.
How many prisoners have mental health issues in CSC?
In 2007-08, 11.1% of individuals committed to Federal prisons had a mental health diagnosis at time of admission and 6.1% were receiving outpatient services prior to admission.
In 2007-08, 30.1% of female prisoners compared to 14.5% of male prisoners had previously been hospitalized for psychiatric reasons.
The percentage of Federal prisoners prescribed medication for psychiatric concerns at admission has almost doubled from 11.0% in 1998-99 to 21.3% in 2007-08.
Female prisoners are twice as likely as male prisoners to have a mental health diagnosis at time of admission.
In BC prisons, in one seven year study, over 30% of the prison population had been medically diagnosed with a substance use disorder. An additional 26% were diagnosed with a mental disorder unrelated to substance use. Among those people diagnosed with a substance use disorder, more than three quarters were also diagnosed with a non drug-related mental disorder (concurrent disorders). Importantly, this does not necessarily include alcohol abuse, fetal alcohol syndrome or developmental disabilities which are not often diagnosed.
In BC, an estimated 80% of female prisoners have received a psychiatric diagnosis.
Are Indigenous adults and youth are overrepresented in custody?
In 2017/2018, Indigenous adults accounted for 30% of adult admissions to provincial/territorial custody and 29% of adult admissions to federal custody, while representing approximately 4% of the Canadian adult population. A decade earlier, Indigenous adults accounted for 21% of admissions to provincial/territorial custody and 20% of federal custodial admissions, indicating that the percentage of Indigenous peoples in custody has increased over the past decade.
In 2017/2018, Indigenous youth made up almost half of youth admissions to custody (48%) in the nine reporting jurisdictions (excluding Nova Scotia, Quebec, Alberta and Yukon), while representing about 8% of the Canadian youth population.
What are the most frequent complaints from people in Federal prisons?
Health Care accounted for 13.5% of complaints followed by Conditions of Confinement (7.9%), and Cell Property (6.9%). Together these accounted for 28.3% of all complaints.
What is the death rate in Federal prisons?
In the ten-year period from 1999-00 to 2008-09, 533 Federal prisoners and 376 Provincial prisoners have died while in custody.
During this time period, suicides accounted for 18.6% of Federal prisoner deaths and 38.3% of Provincial prisoner deaths. The suicide rate was approximately 77 per 100,000 for Federal prisoners, and approximately 71 per 100,000 for Provincial prisoners. These rates are significantly higher than Canada's 2007 rate of 10.2 suicides per 100,000 people.
Between 1999-00 and 2008-09, 5.8% of the Federal prisoner deaths were due to homicide, whereas homicide accounted for 2.4% of Provincial prisoner deaths. The homicide rate for Federal prisoners was approximately 24 per 100,000 and 4 per 100,000 for Provincial prisoners.
These rates are significantly higher than the national homicide rate of 1.6 per 100,000 people in 2007.
Source: Adult and Youth Correctional Statistics in Canada, 2017/18
(Missing most of Provincial / Territories Statistics due to 'Unavailability of Data'!)
50%: The proportion by which the aboriginal prisoner population in federal prisons grew during the law-and-order Harper years between 2005 and 2015.
The number of aboriginal women entering prisons has almost doubled in that time. About 25% of the total Federal prisoner population of 15,000 in Canada is aboriginal; 35.5% of all women prisoners are aboriginal.
69%: The proportion by which the black prisoner population grew during the same decade.
'These increases continue despite public inquiries and commissions calling for change and Supreme Court of Canada decisions urging restraint,' the report states.
More than 6,200: The number of formal prisoner complaints handled by the Office of the Correctional Investigator in 2014-15, one of the highest caseloads in recent years.
The office also conducted some 1,510 reviews of incidents involving use of force against prisoners and 167 reviews of incidents involving assault, death, attempted suicide and self-harm.
One in four: The proportion of prisoner in the federal prison population who are over 50.
That's one-third more than just five years ago. According to the report, 'The system has become so risk averse that even elderly, chronically ill and geriatric persons who no longer pose any ongoing or dynamic risk to public safety are commonly held to their statutory or warrant expiry dates.' The prison population is not only getting older; it's also getting sicker. About 68% of federal inmates are overweight or obese. That number increases to 90% for those over 65. The average age at death for a federal inmate is around 60 – much younger than the Canadian average of 78.3 for men and 83 for women.
30%: The proportion of women prisoners who were previously hospitalized for psychiatric reasons.
Even more troubling: six in 10 women in the federal prison system are on some form of psychotropic medication to manage their mental health.
Close to 70%: Women in federal prisons who report a history of sexual abuse.
More than 86% report having been physically abused at some time in their lives.
578: 'Self-injury' incidents involving women prisoners in 2013-14.
Nearly three-quarters of those occurred at one facility: Regional Psychiatric Centre, Saskatoon. Overall incidents of prison self-injury have tripled in the last decade.
1 in 5: Deaths by suicide, which is the leading cause of unnatural death in Federal prisons.
Just under half of those who took their lives behind bars were on prescribed medications. Segregation is a major contributing factor to suicides behind bars. Almost half, 14 of the 30 suicides in federal prisons in 2014, took place in segregation cells. Five of the 14 had been held in segregation for more than 120 days prior to taking their lives. Of the 659 inmates in segregation today, 13.7 per cent have a history of self-injurious behaviour. The average length of segregation in 2013-14 was 27 days.
$108,376: Yearly cost of keeping a male Federal prisoner in jail.
The cost is nearly twice that for women inmates. By contrast, the cost of keeping offenders in community is 70% less. Meanwhile, total criminal-justice costs (police, courts, corrections, parole) have risen by almost 25% in the last decade, while the national crime rate has fallen dramatically.
$6.90: The maximum daily wage a Federal prisoner can earn.
That number hasn't changed since 1981, the report says, eroding 'the possibility of having any meaningful savings to support reintegration or maintain familial obligations on the outside.' About 60% of prisoners were identified as being chronically underemployed or unemployed at the time they entered Federal prison. And fully 60% have a formal education of Grade 8 or less.
Source: NOW Magazine 2016: The 10 most Distressing numbers on Canada's Federal Prisons
2014/2015 2015/2016 2016/2017 Annual Reports (very incomplete!)
Not In The Public Interest First Nations Deaths In Police Custody (BC)
Schedule of Inquests (Ontario 2022) - Inquest Verdicts (Ontario 2021)
Ontario Deaths in Custody on the Rise - 2022 by: Tracking (In)Justice
Not In The Public Interest First Nations Deaths In Police Custody (BC)
Canada is missing swathes of information about young people in the justice system - such as the number who are in segregation (also called secure isolation, or solitary confinement).
More than 7,600 young people aged 12 to 17 were in correctional services on an average day in 2016-17, according to Statscan (even this number is a fragment; it excludes Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick due to the unavailability of data).
But it’s difficult to know how those youth are faring within those facilities, and whether some provinces are more apt to put them in solitary or use restraining devices than others, said Alan Markwart, British Columbia’s deputy representative for children and youth.
"We’re dealing with young people with quite a disadvantage in the first place. And then to deprive them of any kind of mental stimulation and social contact for any prolonged period of time is probably not effective and can be quite detrimental."
The limited data available are troubling - a Manitoba study this year found 957 incidents of segregation in the province in a recent year, citing one youth who was kept in solitary for 400 straight days "in a cell smaller than a parking stall."
"We certainly have very significant gaps in [youth justice] data," says Nicholas Bala, a law professor at Queen’s University and global expert in youth justice. This includes data on the lengths of sentences youth receive, how many get adult-like sentences and the number in segregation. "It makes policy making difficult," he said.
Source: Globe and Mail - May 6, 2019
4,178 or 19.2% of prisoners spent at least a day in segregation across Ontario Provincial prisons
Of the 4,178:
1,889 served multiple terms in segregation
3,674 (87.9%) were male
454 (10.9%) were female (1.2% unknown)
38.2% had a mental health alert
56.9% identified as white
13.3% identified as black
13.1% identified as aboriginal
16.2 days: Average time spent in segregation
Segregation in Ontario, 2016
Source: Independent Review of Ontario Corrections, March 2017
In 2017/2018, operating expenditures for adult correctional services in Canada totaled over $5 billion, a 7% increase from the previous year after adjusting for inflation.
The costs for keeping adults in custody are typically higher for the federal system. On average, in 2017/2018, custodial services expenditures amounted to around $330 per day per federal offender, or $120,571 annually, compared to $233 per day for provincial/territorial offenders, or $84,915 annually.
Custodial services expenditures totaled over $2 billion accounting for 81% of correctional expenditures from reporting provinces and territories in 2017/2018. Meanwhile, community supervision expenditures totaled over $360 million, accounting for 14% of total expenditures.
Total operating expenditures for correctional services was equivalent to $138 for each person in the Canadian population. Of this amount, a little under half ($68) was spent on Federal correctional services, with the remainder being spent for Provincial and Territorial correctional services.
Source: Operating expenditures of the adult correctional system, by jurisdiction, 2017/2018