Double-bunking in Canadian Federal Corrections

Research Highlights: Improved correctional results and increased capacity have dramatically reduced the double bunking of federal offenders.


No RIB-18-12

October 2018

Research in Brief- PDF

Double-bunking in Canadian Federal Corrections

Why we are doing this study

According to some previous reports, the Canadian federal correctional system was facing a long-term overcrowding crisis and would thereby be forced into housing offenders in shared cells (“double-bunking”). However, sustained and focused efforts directed at improving correctional results (earlier releases and fewer returns) combined with expanded accommodation have reversed that projection.

What we did

Shared accommodation (“double-bunking”) rates reflected in the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) were extracted from the automated Corporate Reporting System-Modernized (CRS-M) Capacity module for Double Bunking Rates. The CRS-M system standardizes the historical reporting of a wide variety of metrics at the national and regional levels. Comparative data on double bunked offenders were drawn for six separate fiscal year-ends (2012-13 to 2017-18) for federal in-custody offenders.

What we found

By fiscal year-end of 2012-13 (March 26, 2013), there were more offenders in federal custody than the number of available single cells (15,225 actual count/14,807 rated capacity). This had resulted in capacity shortfalls at some institutions necessitating double-bunking at a national rate of 20.8%. Over the past five years, there has been a steady and significant reduction in the number of double- bunked offenders from 3,050 (or 20.8%) at year-end in 2012-13 to 748 (or 5.5%) in 2017-18; a decline of -2,302 (or -75%) double bunked offenders.

Double-bunked Offenders: 2012-13 to 2017-18
Fiscal Year-end Double Bunked
Double Bunk Rates
2012-13 3,050 20.8
2013-14 2,802 19.1
2014-15 2,062 14.3
2015-16 1,508 10.6
2016-17 1,094 8.0
2017-18 748 5.5

As reflected below in the double-bunking rates table, all five administrative regions of CSC have observed a significant drop in the number and percentage of offenders being held in a cell designed for one. Also noteworthy, in 2017-18 slightly more than a third of those double-bunked were also held in reception which is temporary.

Double-bunked Offenders: 2012-13 to 2017-18
Double-bunked Offenders
Double-Bunk Rates
Region 2012-13 2017-18 2012-13 2017-18
Atlantic 156 4 10.8 0.3
Quebec 602 294 17.7 10.1
Ontario 1,190 214 29.0 6.1
Prairies 998 202 26.0 5.3
Pacific 104 34 5.5 1.6
National 3,050 748 20.8 5.5

What it means

The administration of population management strategies in CSC involves the use of single occupancy when feasible and ensuring that double bunking, which is the practice of holding two offenders in a cell designed for one, remains a temporary accommodation measure. Over recent years the practice has been substantially reduced, a trend it appears that will likely continue into the near future.

For more information

Please e-mail the Research Branch or contact us by phone at (613) 995-3975.

You can also visit the Research Publications section for a full list of reports and one-page summaries.

Prepared by: Larry Motiuk

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