Security Classifications

Each federal institution has a security classification. The classification determines its layout, operations and the programs offered. There are five different security classifications.

Special Handling Unit (SHU)

The SHU is located within the Regional Reception Centre (RRC). This is a multi-level institution in the Quebec region. It offers a highly structured environment for offenders who cannot be managed safely in another institution.

When an offender is sent to the SHU, every effort is made to return them to a maximum-security setting as soon as possible. The length of an offender's stay depends on the risk they present to staff and other offenders. The facility can house up to 90 offenders.


Maximum-security institutions are designed to house offenders who present a greater threat to the safety of the public, require a higher degree of supervision and/or have a higher chance of attempting to escape. Movement, association and privileges are very restricted.

Maximum-security institutions aim to prepare inmates for medium-security. This is done through programs as well as employment and educational activities.


Medium-security institutions provide an environment that encourages offenders to be more responsible for day-to-day life. Movement, association and privileges are moderately restricted. These institutions have the same security safeguards as maximum-security institutions.

Medium-security allows more interaction among offenders. This allows offenders take responsibility for their actions, and co-operate with other inmates. This process helps prepare them for a minimum-security institution.


In minimum-security institutions there are fewer limitations. Movement, association and privileges continue to be monitored and managed by correctional staff with as little restriction as possible. This prepares offenders for their eventual return to the community.

The environment promotes personal development, responsible behaviour and interactions with others.

Women Offender Institutions

Women's institutions provide a safe and supportive environment for offenders. This is done through programs and treatment that are designed specifically to meet women's needs.

All women's institutions are multi-level. This means they house maximum-, medium- and minimum-security offenders. The only exception is Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge. It houses only minimum or medium security offenders.

Women live in the section of the institution that matches their security level. Those who are classified as minimum or medium security live in housing units with shared living areas. They are responsible for their daily needs such as cooking, cleaning and laundry. Women classified as maximum security live in secure units. Specialized staff provide high-level programs and supervision.

Looking for more information? Consult our Commissioner's Directive on the Classification of Institutions.