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Youth Correction Services - Statistics in Canada
Statistics Canada
Statistique Canada

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Youth correctional services: Key indicators


The number of young people in sentenced custody decreased by half, and the numbers on remand and probation have been reduced considerably since the introduction of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Average Daily Count

On average, 1,340 young persons were in sentenced custody on any given day in Canada in 2003/04. This included 720 young persons in secure custody and 620 in open custody.

Note to readers

Youth custody and community corrections key indicators used to be released in the Juristat titled Youth Custody and Community Services in Canada (85-002-XIE).

Average counts for sentenced custody, remand and probation in 2003/04 include all jurisdictions except the Northwest Territories, where probation counts are not available. Due to missing data in previous years, exclusions have been made in the analysis of 2003/04 compared to earlier years. Ontario data are excluded from remand, probation counts and all rates. Nunavut and Northwest Territories are excluded from probation counts and rates.

Youth Criminal Justice Act

The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) came into effect on April 1, 2003 to replace its predecessor of 19 years, the Young Offender's Act (YOA).

The YCJA is one element of a broader structure of reform to the youth justice system in Canada titled the Youth Justice Renewal Initiative (YJRI). Beginning in 1998, the YJRI introduced several measures to address the limitations of the YOA including increased federal funding to the provinces and territories, the development of new community programs and infrastructures, and increased public awareness and education in an effort to promote the rehabilitation and reintegration of young persons into the community.

One of the objectives of the YCJA is to reduce the use of incarceration, reserving its use for only the most serious offences. Instead, the YCJA directs the increased use of community-based and non-custodial alternatives, which focus on the rehabilitation of young persons.

The YCJA requires that young persons sentenced to custody serve the final portion of the custody sentence under supervision in the community. The YCJA also introduced new sentences for young persons, including Deferred Custody and Supervision and Intensive Support and Supervision Programs, which are supervised in the community.

Although similar sentences are specified in the legislation pre- and post-YCJA, the implementation of the new legislation and the introduction of new sentences have had an impact on the manner in which some caseloads are administered. Therefore, comparisons between 2003/04 and previous years should be made with caution.

In contrast, during the previous fiscal year, about 2,720 young persons, on average, were in sentenced custody on any given day, 1,260 in secure custody and 1,460 in open custody.

Average daily counts of young persons in sentenced custody declined as fewer young persons were given custody sentences by the courts. Sentenced custody includes all young persons who have been sentenced to incarceration by a court and who are serving that sentence in custody, either secure or open. Sentenced custody does not include young persons sentenced to Deferred Custody and Supervision or those serving the last portion of their custody sentence in the community under the new provisions of the YCJA.

Decline in numbers on remand, probation

The average number of young persons aged 12 to 17 held on remand and supervised on probation also declined since the introduction of the YCJA, but to a lesser extent than sentenced custody.

In 2003/04 there was an average of 740 young persons held on remand on any given day in Canada. Compared to 2002/03, remand counts were down 8%.

Remand custody includes all persons who have not yet been sentenced, but who are being held in custody while awaiting trial or sentencing.

On any given day in 2003/04, there were about 21,330 young persons on probation. Compared to 2002/03, probation counts were down almost 20%.

Incarceration down in all provinces and territories

All jurisdictions experienced large declines in their average daily sentenced custody counts during 2003/04.

Decreases in sentenced custody ranged from a 68% decline in Ontario to a 24% decline in Saskatchewan.

Average daily count of young persons in sentenced custody
Jurisdiction 2002/03 2003/04 % change
Newfoundland and Labrador 93 45 -52
Prince Edward Island 14 6 -57
Nova Scotia 105 57 -46
New Brunswick 97 61 -37
Quebec 310 213 -31
Ontario1 1,262 410 -68
Manitoba 152 104 -32
Saskatchewan 246 188 -24
Alberta 229 142 -38
British Columbia 152 90 -41
Yukon 5 3 -40
Northwest Territories 41 22 -46
Nunavut 10 5 -50
1. For 2002/03, sentenced custody includes estimated counts for Ontario 12 to 15 year olds.

Remand counts also fell in nine jurisdictions, but to a lesser extent than sentenced custody. Of these, the largest declines were in Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island, where remands fell 33% in both provinces. The smallest decline was in British Columbia (-8%).

The decline in the number of young persons on probation occurred in all jurisdictions, ranging from a 29% decrease in British Columbia to an 8% decrease in Nova Scotia.

The YCJA's emphasis on pre-court diversion and the reduced use of incarceration has had an impact on the use of youth corrections, with its focus on community alternatives, either pre- or post-court.

Incarceration, probation rates decline

The incarceration rate is the average daily number of young persons in custody per 10,000 youths aged 12 to 17 in the population, while the probation rate is the number of young persons on probation per 10,000 youths. These statistics describe the level of incarceration or probation supervision in relation to the number of young persons in the population, and permit comparisons over time by taking into account changes in the size of the Canadian population of young persons.

During the previous decade, the incarceration and probation rates have been declining as the rates of young persons being charged by police and convicted by the courts were dropping.

The incarceration rate of young persons was 8.2 in 2003/04. With the large decline in the number of young persons in custody, the incarceration rate fell 29% from the previous year.

In 2003/04 the probation rate was 84.4 young persons on probation per 10,000 young persons in the population. Compared to 2002/03, the probation rate was 20% lower.

Youth incarceration and probation rates (selected years)
Year Incarceration rate1 Probation rate2
rate per 10,000 youth
1994/95 19.6 122.7
1998/99 16.6 130.4
2002/03 12.4 109.1
2003/04 8.8 87.7
2003/043 8.2 84.4
1. Incarceration rates exclude Ontario due to the unavailability of data.
2. Probation rates exclude Ontario, Northwest Territories and Nunavut due to the unavailability of data.
3. Incarceration rate includes Ontario and probation rate includes Ontario and Nunavut for 2003/04.

Expanded community supervision under the YCJA

The YCJA introduced a number of new sentences, including Deferred Custody and Supervision and the Intensive Support and Supervision Programs (ISSPs). Although the new sentences began to be used soon after the implementation of the YCJA, the last three months (January to March 2004) of the 2003/04 fiscal year are Read More ..flective of the frequency of their actual use in the correctional system.

These new sentences, which place emphasis on community supervision, will have had an effect on the number of young persons in sentenced custody. Some young persons who previously would have been in sentenced custody are now being supervised in the community.

Deferred Custody and Supervision allows a young person to serve a custody sentence in the community under a number of strict conditions. As in the case of conditional sentences for adults, any breach of conditions may result in the young person being sent to custody. All jurisdictions except Nova Scotia, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories were able to report on Deferred Custody and Supervision in 2003/04.

During the last three months of the fiscal year 2003/04 (January to March 2004), there were on average, about 400 young persons being supervised in the community on Deferred Custody and Supervision.

The ISSP provides closer monitoring and support than traditional probation. This is an optional program currently used in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia and the Yukon were able to report on ISSP for 2003/04. During the last three months of the fiscal year 2003/04, there were 190 young people on ISSPs on any given day in these jurisdictions.

The YCJA also introduced a mandatory final community supervision portion to all custody sentences. All jurisdictions except Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories were able to report on the community portion of a custody sentence in 2003/04.

During the last three months of 2003/04, there were 300 young persons in the community on any given day, serving the community portion of their custody sentence.

The implementation of the YCJA has resulted in a large decline in the number of youth supervised in correctional services, particularly in custody but also in the community. Remands now represent a larger proportion of young persons in custody, while community sentences now include Read More ..tensive supervision.

Available on CANSIM: table 251-0008.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3313.

For Read More ..formation, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, please contact Information and Client Services (1-800-387-2231; 613-951-9023; fax: 613-951-6615), Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.


The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) was created in 1981 as a division of Statistics Canada. The CCJS is the focal point of a federal-provincial-territorial partnership for the collection of information on the nature and extent of crime and the administration of civil and criminal justice in Canada. This partnership, known as the "National Justice Statistics Initiative" provides a national justice statistics program.