Correctional programs

The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) prioritizes correctional programs as a means of reducing recidivism rates and increasing the safety of Canadian communities. Correctional programs are structured interventions that target risk factors directly linked to criminal behaviour in order to reduce reoffending.

CSC has implemented evidence-based correctional programs that follow the principles of effective correctional programs. CSC’s programs have been shown to significantly reduce criminal recidivism. They are based on:

  • the Social Learning theory of behaviour
  • make use of cognitive behavioural techniques

Correctional programs are also based on the Risk-Needs- Responsivity model of interventions, which states that:

  • the level of intervention should match the level of risk
  • programs should address criminogenic risk factors, and
  • the most effective interventions take into consideration the learning styles and other individual characteristics of offenders

Offenders have a variety of risks and needs that impact their likelihood of reoffending. CSC recognizes and responds to these varying risks and needs by offering programs to:

This section explains:

Note: The Parole Board of Canada considers program participation and completion when considering release.

Program design

CSC offers correctional programs that research has proven are effective in reducing reoffending. These programs are guided by:

  • correctional research
  • theory, and
  • current correctional practices

CSC also consults with internal and external stakeholders. The programs undergo regular evaluations, as well.

Correctional programs:

  • help offenders understand that they are accountable for their criminal behaviour
  • target risk factors that, once changed, have been proven to reduce future reoffending
  • teach skills for managing risk factors for crime
  • help change criminal attitudes
  • reduce the risk offenders present when they return to society

For more information, refer to:

Risk and needs assessment

Risk is a measure of how likely it is that an offender will reoffend.

Needs are factors that may have contributed to an offender's criminal behaviour. These needs can have an impact on the offender's ability to successfully transition back into the community.

CSC assesses all federal offenders to determine their

  • risk level
  • needs, and
  • reintegration potential

CSC uses the results of these assessments to determine their:

  • appropriate security level
  • correctional goals and plans
  • risk management strategies, and
  • correctional programming needs

How programs change offender behaviour

CSC’s correctional programs target dynamic risk factors. These are factors confirmed through research as associated with reoffending. These factors can be changed through intervention.

Research has identified a common set of eight risk factors linked to reoffending for all offenders. They include:

  • substance abuse
  • pro-criminal attitudes
  • anti-social personality
  • pro-criminal associates
  • education/employment
  • family/marital relationships
  • leisure/recreation, and
  • criminal history

During their involvement in programs, offenders:

  • learn about the risk factors that contributed to their criminal behaviour
  • set personal targets, and
  • learn skills to help them manage their risk factors to reduce the likelihood of returning to crime

These skills include, but are not limited to:

  • emotions management
  • problem-solving
  • goal setting
  • interpersonal communication
  • conflict resolution
  • self-monitoring

Criteria for participation in programs

Offenders are referred to correctional programs based on their levels of risk and need. Generally CSC refers offenders assessed as:

  • moderate risk to reoffend to moderate intensity programs, and
  • high risk to reoffend to high intensity programs

To participate in a correctional program, the offender must meet the criteria outlined in the referral guidelines. You can find information on these criteria in:

Meeting physical or mental health care needs

CSC considers programming for offenders with special needs on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes an offender may:

  • be able to participate in regular programming with accommodations made by program facilitators
  • need to participate in other strategies, such as mental health interventions

For more information visit:

Follow-up programming

In order to support the gains achieved from program involvement, all participants who complete a main program are assessed and considered for maintenance. The main objectives for these programs are to reduce risk to re-offend by:

  • reviewing core self-management skills
  • applying skills to real-life situations, obstacles, and high-risk situations

For more information refer to:

For more information

Corrections is a dynamic environment. Different scenarios can affect an offender’s programming. Offenders should contact their case management team for answers about individual situations.

Policy and legislation

Commissioner’s directives and guidelines

CD 700 Correctional Interventions applies to all staff involved in correctional interventions. It outlines their responsibilities and the procedures associated with the correctional intervention process.

CD 726 Correctional Programs outlines the purpose and procedures for all correctional programs delivered in our institutions. The process includes assessments, planning, interventions, and decision-making.


Corrections and Conditional Release Act, Sections 3, 3.1, 4, 5(b), 15.1, 26, 76, 77, 79 and 80 outline information about programs for offenders.

Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations, Section 102 states that CSC must include program requirements for inmates in their correctional plans.

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