Basic Facts in Federal Corrections - LawNow Magazine

Basic Facts in Federal Corrections

photo of handcuffed armsCanada’s incarceration rate is 117/100,000 adults and youth, while the United States’ is 762/100,000 and France’s is 91/100,000.

  • The Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) has been in force since1992 and was amended in 2012. The CCRA outlines the responsibilities of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) and the Correctional Investigator.
  • The fundamental principle underlying the CCRA and governing the CSC and PBC is that long-term safety is best ensured by the safe, gradual return of offenders to the community, albeit with conditions and under supervision as the protection of society is paramount.
    • CSC and the PBC fall under the Minister of Public Safety Canada.
    • Public Safety is Canada’s lead department for public safety.
    • As Ombudsman, the Correctional Investigator is independent of the Correctional Service and the Minister of Public Safety.

The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), as part of the criminal justice system and respecting the rule of law, The fundamental principle underlying the CCRA and governing the CSC and PBC is that long-term safety is best ensured by the safe, gradual return of offenders to the community, albeit with conditions and under supervision as the protection of society is paramount. contributes to public safety by actively encouraging and assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens, while exercising reasonable, safe, secure and humane control.

  • In Canada all offenders sentenced to 2 years or more become the responsibility of CSC, while those sentenced to less than 2 years under the jurisdiction of the province/territory where convicted.
  • The Correctional Service of Canada offers treatment and education programs for offenders. As well, educational resources for students and teachers are made available: For firsthand accounts of CSC operations, you can watch a video, or access the text transcript, at .
  • CSC’s budget in 2012-13 >$3B

The CSC has

  • 20,278 staff members, of whom 7.5% are Aboriginal;
  • 57 institutions, 16 community correctional centres, 71 parole offices and 9 Aboriginal healing lodges;
  • 14,221 inmates in institutions as of March 31, 2011, plus 8,642 offenders under community supervision; women comprise 4% and 6% respectively; in addition:
    • 90% of offenders have a previous youth or adult conviction, 80% have histories of substance abuse, 67% committed violent offences and there are serious mental health disorders among 13% of male and 29% of female populations upon admission;
    • 1 in 6 males and 1 in 10 females have gang affiliations;
    • 18% of the incarcerated offender population is age 50 or over;
    • 60% serving short sentences of 4 years or less; 22.5% serving life or indeterminate sentences;
    • Average cost of keeping an inmate incarcerated is $113,974 (2009-10);
    • Average cost of maintaining an offender in the community is $29,537 (2009-10);
    • As of April 2011, 18.5% of the Federal offender population is Aboriginal;
    • Aboriginals represent 21.5% of the federally incarcerated and 13.6% of the community population; but Aboriginal adults represent approximately 4% of the Canadian adult population.

The Parole Board of Canada (PBC), as part of the criminal justice system, makes independent, quality conditional release and record suspension decisions and clemency recommendations. The Board contributes to the protection of society by facilitating as appropriate, the timely reintegration of offenders as law-abiding citizens.

View the facts about Parole, Record suspensions and Victims services at

  • Average PBC grant rates in 2010-11:
    • Day parole (DP): 62%
    • Full parole (FP): 39.5%
    • Aboriginal grant rate: 53.4% for Day Parole; 24.8% for Full Parole
    • Offenders released on parole serve an average 31.5% of their sentence prior to DP and 37.8% prior to FP.
  • Eligibility for Conditional Release:
    • Conditional release eligibility periods are set by law in either the Criminal Code or the CCRA;
    • Eligibility does not mean release; it is a review date;
    • Every offender is eligible for review by law;
    • The protection of society is paramount;
    • Conditional release provides a gradual and supervised release with conditions attached;
    • The PBC must review all available information about the offender, the offence and the community;
    • Decisions are based on risk assessment of each case while considering behaviour in the past, the present and the probable future; both actuarial and analytical tools are used;
    • Information is shared with the offender as well as reasons for decision and access to appeal;
    • Usually the offender must serve the first third, or the first 7 years, whichever is less, of any sentence of imprisonment before being eligible for full parole;
    • Federal offenders generally become eligible for day parole 6 months before their full parole eligibility date;
    • Parole eligibility for lifers is set by law or by the court as follows:
      • 1st degree murder: 25 years
      • 2nd degree murder: 10-25 years (determined by the judge after recommendation from jury)
      • Lifers on parole are under supervision for life;
      • Parole can be revoked at any time for breach of conditions; the offender can be returned to penitentiary, but can re-apply for parole later;
      • Offenders serving life sentences are eligible for day parole three years before their full parole eligibility date.
  • Release types: Temporary Absence (escorted and unescorted); Work Release; Day Parole and Full parole:
    • Statutory Release: Law requires that offenders be released with supervision after serving two-thirds of their sentence;
    • Statutory release is not a decision made by the PBC;
    • Statutory release does not apply to offenders serving a life or indeterminate sentence.
    • Exceptionally, “Detention” allows the PBC to detain offenders at their statutory release date upon referral from CSC if it is believed that the offender is likely to commit an offence causing serious harm or death prior to the expiry of his/her sentence;
    • Detention ends at the Warrant Expiry Date, the date the criminal sentence, as imposed by the court at the time of sentencing, officially ends
    • 252 cases reviewed in 2010-11: 94.4% detained.
  • Standard Parole Conditions
    • Every offender on conditional release must:
      • Live only in a community approved by the parole supervisor;
      • Report to the parole supervisor as instructed;
      • Obey the law and keep the peace;
      • Always carry the release certificate and the identity card and produce them on request to any peace or parole officer;
      • Not own, possess or control a weapon, as defined in the Criminal Code, except as authorized by the parole supervisor;
      • Inform the parole supervisor of any change that may affect the offender’s ability to respect the conditions of release.
  • Special Parole Conditions
    • If considered necessary, the PBC may impose additional conditions to assist the offender, The Correctional Investigator of Canada is mandated by Part III of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act as an Ombudsman for federal offenders. control behaviour and further reduce risk; these may include curfews, restrictions on movement, agreement to counseling, prohibitions on drinking, and prohibitions on associating with certain people (such as children or former victims).
    • CSC can refer Statutory Release cases to the Parole Board for detention until the end of the sentence. The Board may, in specific cases where the legal criteria are met, order these offenders to be detained in prison until the end of their sentence.
  • Parole Results in 2010-11:
    • The majority of releases are successfully completed
    • Day Parole: 89.1%, up from 86.1%
    • Full Parole: 75.2%, up from 73.9%
    • Statutory Release: 62.4%, up from 61.1%
    • In all categories of conditional release, the rate of reconviction for violent offences has declined since 1997-98
  • The “Faint Hope Clause” (Section 745 of the Criminal Code)
    • Lifers convicted of 1st or 2nd degree murder prior to March 2012 may apply for judicial review after serving 15 years: the application is first screened on paper by a judge; if judgedetermines merit, the application is then heard by a judge and jury; not a PBC decision;
    • Jury decides two things: If parole eligibility date should be earlier (decision must be unanimous) and how much earlier?
    • If successful, the offender can then apply to the PBC who decides whether to grant parole or not.
    • Reviews began in 1987:
      • Eligible to Apply as of April 10, 2011: 1524 …had served at least 15 years past arrest date
      • Court Decisions made: 185
      • Reductions granted by the Courts: 147
      • Parole Granted by PBC: 135
    • Legislative changes have impacted life sentences in the following fashion:
      • Effective as of December 2, 2011,
        • – 745.51 — Multiple murders – Judge may impose consecutive parole ineligibility periods
        • – 745.6(2) — Lifers have only 90 days after 15 years to apply for reduction of ineligibility; thereafter 90 days 5 years later; and then wait till 25 years for parole eligibility.
      • Effective as of March, 2012 (Bill S-6)
        • – 745.6 — “Faint Hope Clause” no longer applies for any individual newly sentenced, thus not eligible for reduction to 15 years.

The Correctional Investigator of Canada is mandated by Part III of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act as an Ombudsman for federal offenders. The primary function of the Office is to investigate and bring resolution to individual offender complaints. The Office as well has a responsibility to review and make recommendations on the Correctional Service’s policies and procedures associated with the areas of individual complaints to ensure that systemic areas of concern are identified and appropriately addressed.

The Office of the Correctional Investigator

  • Responded to 5,789 complaints in 2011-12;
  • Conducted 814 use of force reviews;
  • Reviewed 27 cases of inmate deaths;
  • Reviewed 113 incidents involving serious bodily injury, including self-harm;
  • The Office is empowered with broad authorities and had an average of 30 full-time employees in 2011-12.

This article is reprinted from the Justice Report, v. 28 no. 1, with permission from the Canadian Criminal Justice Association.



Irving Kulik
Irving Kulik is the Executive Director of the Canadian Criminal Justice Association.

A Publication of CPLEA

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