Number of jailed Canadians grows

Nov 21, 2007 09:28 AM


OTTAWA Canada's incarceration rate increased for the first time in more than a decade in 2005-06, driven by growth in the number of adults being held in custody while awaiting trial or sentencing.

The average number of young people aged 12 to 17 in custody, on the other hand, continued a decline that began with adoption of the Youth Criminal Justice Act in 2003.

The numbers could take a significant shift if the Commons passes Conservative government legislation that aims to introduce minimum sentences for some crimes and boost youth sentencing.

Statistics Canada reports that Canada's incarceration rate moved upward slightly to 110 from 107 prisoners per 100,000 population, a two per cent increase.

Although this increase was a departure from the slow, steady decline since 1995-96, the rate was still 17 per cent lower than that recorded a decade earlier.

On any given day in 2005-06, an average of 33,123 adults and 1,987 youth were in custody in Canada, for a total of 35,110 inmates, three per cent more than in 2004-05.

Canada's incarceration rate tends to be higher than most western European countries, yet far lower than that of the United States.

For instance, Sweden posted an incarceration rate of 82 and France a rate of 85 per 100,000 population in 2005-06.

By comparison, the incarceration rate in England and Wales was 148, and in the United States the adult rate stood at 738.

The number of adults jailed while awaiting trial or sentencing has been growing steadily in Canada since the mid-1980s.