COVID-19 and the Federal Custody Population in 2020
Research Highlights: Substantial COVID-19 period declines in the custody population are the result of fewer admissions and safe releases.
Research in Brief- PDF
Why we did this study
Over the course of past five fiscal years, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has seen a noteworthy decline (-992 or 6.7%) in the federal in-custody population from 14,712 at year-end in 2015-16 to 13,720 in 2019-20. On the other hand, there has been a substantial rise (+1,037 or 12.4%) in the conditional release supervision population from 8,345 at year-end in 2015-16 to 9,382 in 2019-20.
During a nine-month period from April 1 to December 31, 2020, marked by the occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects, there also has been a substantial decline (-1,162 or 8.5%) in the federal in-custody population from April 1, 2020 to 12,558 by the end of December. As well, there has been a small rise (+26) in the conditional release supervision population from 9,382 on March 31 to 9,408 by the end of December 2020.
What we did
Historical federal institutional and community counts are recorded as standardized reports in CSC’s Corporate Reporting System-Modernized (CRS-M). Similarly, counts of admissions and releases are also recorded in CRS-M. Data was extracted (August 15, 2020) to establish a five-year trend (2015-16 to 2019-20) and a nine month (April to December 2020) of the flows in and out of federal custody.
What we found
Overall, admissions to federal custody have dropped from 7,448 in 2015-16 to 6,946 in 2019-20; a substantial difference of -502 (or –6.7%). When unpacking this decline by type of federal admission, it is notable that returns to federal custody through conditional release revocations had dropped substantially from 2,476 in 2015-16 to 2,285 in 2019-20, a difference of -191 (or -7.7%). From April to December, 2020 there was a substantial drop in monthly admissions including revocations during the pandemic period. 2020-21 year-end projections estimate there will be roughly 5,108 admissions, including 1,965 on a revocation.
Total releases from federal custody also declined from 7,919 in 2015-16 to 7,285 in 2019-20. Looking at releases by type it is noteworthy that there has been a considerable rise in day parole releases from 2,130 in 2015-16 to 2,542 in 2019-20; a difference of +412 (or +19.3%). From April to December, 2020 there was an overall drop in monthly releases. Notably, there had been an initial rise in day parole releases peaking in June during the pandemic period. A 2020-21 year-end estimate shows there will be 6,909 releases, including 2,499 on day parole.
|Fiscal Years||Total Admissions||Admissions
Source: CRS-M; Estimates are calculated by forward moving averages.
What it means
Notwithstanding that before and during the COVID-19 period there had been and continues to be downward trend in the federal custody population, it appears that the significant reductions in federal admissions, ongoing efforts at case preparation for safe release, and effective case management has resulted in a pronounced reduction in the number of inmates during the pandemic period.
For more information
Prepared by: Larry Motiuk and Mike Hayden
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