Public Perceptions of Corrections, 2010

Key Words

prison, parole, public perception


Public opinions regarding the efforts of correctional systems to deal with offenders both in institutions and in the community are important in understanding areas where the correctional community might need to focus efforts on communicating with the public and providing information that would inform public opinion.

This analysis was undertaken to provide a picture of the opinions of Canadians in regards to correctional services across the country. In 2009, Statistics Canada through the General Social Survey (GSS) cycles focusing on victimization and personal risk asked a series of 4 questions regarding the public perceptions of prison and parole focused on dealing with offenders.

What we did

Based on the data provided by Statistics Canada from the 2009 GSS, overall perceptions of the job that prisons and parole do in a variety of areas were examined.

It is important to note that the perceptions examined are of prison and parole systems overall. No differentiation was made in the questions asked between Provincial/Territorial and Federal correctional systems.

What we found

Overall, Canadians had a fairly positive opinion regarding the performance of our correctional systems in dealing with offenders. 87% of Canadians felt that prisons did a good or average job of supervising and controlling offenders in institutions.

Opinions of other activities were slightly less positive with 74% of Canadians reporting that prisons did a good or average job of helping prisoners to become law abiding citizens. 71% felt that the parole system did a good or average job of releasing offenders who are not likely to commit another crime. Canadians felt that the parole system did a good or average job in releasing and supervising offenders (69%).

Perceptions Prison/Parole System Performance by Type of Activity
  Good Job Average Job Poor Job
Supervising and controlling prisoners while in prison 46% 41% 13%
Helping prisoners become law-abiding citizens 26% 48% 26%
Releasing offenders who are not likely to commit another crime 23% 48% 29%
Supervising offenders on parole 22% 47% 47%

What it means

The results of this research suggest that Canadians perceive that correctional systems in Canada are doing an adequate job. However, the numbers outlined in this analysis suggest that additional efforts could be undertaken to inform the public on correctional successes regarding both in custody and community offender populations so as to create a more positive public attitude of the Correctional Service.

Prepared by: Leslie-Anne Keown

For more information

Research Branch
(613) 995-3975