General Print Resources
Victim Services at CSC
Maximum Security Institutions
Maximum security institutions provide the highest security level in Canada. See the list of institutions for a list of the eight maximum security institutions, multi-level institutions and the Special Handling Unit in Canada.
See the Glossary for a description of the terms used in this document.
Role of Maximum Security Institutions
Maximum security institutions provide long-term incarceration for offenders who have a higher probability of attempting to escape and who present a greater threat to the safety of the public. For behavioural reasons, they also require a higher degree of supervision and control within the institution.
In order to assist and encourage offenders to become law-abiding citizens, maximum security institutions aim to prepare inmates to progress to a medium security institution. This allows the offender to access more opportunities to prepare for release and participate in additional programming; this assists in the offender’s eventual successful integration back into the community. Maximum security institutions deliver programs, employment and educational activities designed to motivate offenders to change their behaviour and live as responsible, contributing members in society.
Description of Premises
Maximum security institutions have a perimeter that is well-defined, highly secure and controlled. The institutional staff directly supervise offenders and have weapons available to manage any safety threats.
Maximum security institutions are divided into units that accommodate offenders with different needs. This includes regular population cells, segregation cells, the hospital, visits and correspondence areas, and temporary detainee cells.
Inmates are required to keep their cells clean and tidy. They must make their beds every morning and refrain from posting any material on the walls. Typical cell issue includes bedding, a footlocker, laundry hampers, eating utensils, a soap dish, disposable razors, a comb/hairbrush, a toothbrush, a broom, and a toilet brush. Cell searches occur on a regular basis, and articles in excess of those issued are removed.
The size of a maximum security institution varies according to the number of offenders it houses and the programs available. See Appendix A – Maximum-Security Institutions in Canada for more information about various institutions.
Figure 1 – Edmonton Institution in Edmonton, Alberta. This is a picture of an unoccupied typical maximum security cell. When occupied, a mattress and an inmate’s effects are placed in the cell. Inmates at Edmonton Institution are housed in eight units.
Maximum Security Institution Operations1
Arrival at Maximum Security Institutions
When inmates arrive at a maximum security institution, they are brought to Admissions and Discharge, where personal belongings are processed and stored.
Inmates are issued a standard set of clothing, which includes jeans, shirts, shoes, socks, underwear, and seasonal wear. These clothes are required to be kept tidy for work. Clothing items such as running shoes or sandals must be purchased by inmates from their own money. Inmates are assigned to a Correctional Officer (CO), who is responsible for the daily operation of the cell ranges.
All maximum security institutions in Canada meet the same security standards.
- The perimeter is comprised of high walls or fences, strategically located control towers, and electronic systems for detecting any movement inside the perimeter.
- The Correctional Officers posted to the towers are armed.
- The various buildings in the institution are separated by locked gates, fences and walls. Inmate movement, opportunities for associating and privileges are strictly regulated.
- Each Institutional Head establishes Standing Orders for controlling inmate movement to provide safety and security for staff, inmates, and the institution. Inmate movement includes participation in inmate activities, such as work, health-care, or cultural and/or religious ceremonies. Standing Orders must identify:
- times when movement is permitted;
- the maximum number of offenders permitted to move at one time;
- reasons for offender movement;
- methods of initiating inmate movement; and
- out-of-bounds areas during movement.
- At maximum security institutions, cell doors are only to be left open for approved entry and exit reasons. This includes movement for work hours and special activities, such as religious services and meals.
- Offenders must maintain individual and group relationships in accordance with the teachings of programs, treatment and skills development.
- Some offenders reside in segregation units in order to address problem behaviour or for the safety of the offender.
- Each time an offender leaves the institution (for medical reasons, a court appearance or other approved reasons), the Warden conducts a threat-risk assessment to determine the appropriate security measures to be used. This assessment determines the number of Correctional Officers who will escort the offender, the restraint methods and other security measures that will be in place, including the use of firearms. Usually, three officers escort the offender and two types of restraints are used.
- Correctional Officers ensure all inmates are present in their cells through conducting regular security range patrols and inmate counts daily.
- Discipline procedures are in place for any inmate who disobeys an institutional policy or law.
Health care services are available at each institution. Inmates requiring medical assistance must make an appointment to visit a nurse or doctors, based on the urgency of the request. Dentist, optometry, and psychiatric clinics are also available.
CSC is legislatively mandated to provide every inmate with essential health care and reasonable access to non-essential mental health care that will contribute to the inmate’s rehabilitation and successful reintegration into the community.
Improving the capacity to address mental health needs of offenders is a corporate priority for the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), as we continue to enhance our contributions to public safety.
CSC currently delivers a continuum of mental health services to meet the needs of offenders from intake to warrant expiry, including:
- CSC has fully implemented a computerized system to screen new offenders at intake to better enable staff to identify those offenders that need further mental health intervention upon admission.
- Institutions have put in place inter-disciplinary teams of mental health professionals to provide basic, mental health services and supports.
- Five Regional Treatment Centres provide treatment for male offenders with the most serious mental health conditions who require in-patient treatment beds. The Treatment Centre in the Prairies and the Institut Phillipe-Pinel, a provincial psychiatric facility in Quebec, have units for intensive mental health treatment of women offenders.
- For minimum and medium-security women offenders with mental health needs, separate units (Structured Living Environments) have been established at each of the five women’s facilities.
- Transitional care leading up to and following release to the community is available to enhance the existing case management and clinical supervision model.
Correctional planning at maximum security institutions aims to help offenders modify their attitudes for interaction with individuals in highly structured groups. Correctional programs are structured interventions that address the factors directly related to offenders' criminal behaviour and Correctional Plan. A variety of programs are offered at maximum institutions, but not all programs are available in every institution. An offender may be placed in a specific institution based on program needs.
There are less opportunities for program participation at maximum security institutions and less freedom of movement compared to a medium security institution.
Maximum security institutions offer numerous programs to assist offenders in rehabilitation, such as:
- living skills;
- special needs programs;
- violent offender treatment;
- violence treatment;
- substance abuse treatment;
- sex offender programs; and
- programs for acquiring cognitive skills.
See the Correctional Program Descriptions for more details on the correctional programs offered for offenders in the community.
Social programs provide activities for personal development. Inmates can participate in groups such as the John Howard Society or the Native Brotherhood. Hobby and craft programs are available, but the supplies must be paid for by the inmate. These social programs teach inmates life skills and how to responsibly interact with others.
Maximum security institutions offer education programs on a full-time, part-time, tutorial, or correspondence basis. These programs encourage inmates to upgrade their academic standing. The Education department at the institutions provides career counselling, academic programs, and a variety of vocational skill development opportunities.
The institution offers a wide range of correspondence courses, including grades one to 12 and college and university subjects. Inmates are responsible for all fees relating to the completion of their correspondence education, such as textbooks and school supplies. Libraries are generally available for inmates to access books, magazines, and newspapers.
Employment and Pay
Maximum security institutions encourage all inmates to be gainfully and productively employed while incarcerated. Inmates have various expenses within prison, including child support fees, private family visit costs, legal fees, and daily living expenses that go beyond what CSC provides (eg. canteen, special types of clothing).
Typically, inmates apply for jobs in the prison. Jobs are offered in various areas in the institutions, such as kitchen work, laundry, cleaning services, and the CORCAN program.
Unemployed inmates remain inside their cells during working hours.
1 *Note: some operations/practices may vary between the maximum-security institutions depending on availability and resources.