Thursday, April 28, 2016

Inmate Ethnicity Data


I have a researcher seeking historical (and current data) on federal prisons, with particular attention on inmate profiles, precisely...inmate ethnicity.

Annual reports of the OCI, and Commissioner of Penitentiaries (and its previous incarnations) have provided clues that this data is out there.


The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) does not collect data by ethnicity, with the sole exception that some of our surveys have an Aboriginal identity indicator. For the purposes of corrections data, this is available in the following tables;

The annual Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview from Public Safety Canada provides a national level snapshot. See Figure C9 in the 2015 annual report (p. 49)with the following self-reported race groupings for offenders: 
  • Aboriginal,
  • Asian, 
  • Black, 
  • Caucasian, 
  • Hispanic, 
  • Other/Unknown
Some provincial government departments may also release similar statistics. For example, the Province of BC produces a series of Justice Dashboards, two of which cover corrections: Adult Custody and Community CorrectionsThese dashboards include data on ethnicity in the following categories: 
  • Aboriginal (broken down further into Aboriginal, Native, and Metis), 
  • Asian, 
  • Black, 
  • Caucasian, 
  • East Indian, 
  • Hispanic, 
  • Other, and 
  • Unknown 
The data that feeds into these two dashboards is also available through the DataBC website. I don't know if similar sources are available in other provinces.

There has been quite a lot written about the difficulty in accessing data on ethnicity in the Canadian criminal justice system. Some notable works include:

1. Collecting Data on Aboriginal People in the Criminal Justice System: Methods and Challenges

AuthorRebecca Kong
AuthorKaren Beattie
PlaceOttawa, ON
DateMay 2005
ExtraISBN: 0-662-40132-8
InstitutionStatistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics
AbstractThis objective of this report is to present the status of national data on Aboriginal people who come into contact with the criminal justice system as offenders and victims. The report examines the current and potential collection of an individual's Aboriginal identity through various justice-related surveys at Statistics Canada, the challenges within these surveys to collect these data and provides some insight into the quality of these data. The data and sources are examined within the context of information needs for the justice and social policy sectors, and in relation to the preferred method of measuring Aboriginal Identity at Statistics Canada. Data sources examined include the Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting Survey, the Homicide Survey, the Integrated Criminal Courts Survey, the Adult Corrections Survey, the Youth Custody and Community Services Survey, the Youth Alternative Measures Survey, the Transition Home Survey, the Victim Services Survey and the General Social Survey on Victimization. Finally, the report briefly describes efforts by other countries to improve justice-related information on their indigenous populations.
Report Number85-564-XIE

2. Race-based criminal justice data in Canada: Suggestions for moving forward 

AuthorAkwasi Owusu-Bempah
DateMarch 2011
InstitutionPublic Safety Canada
Note:Copy obtained under Access to Information request (IA-2013-00078) for previously-released documents held by Statistics Canada (CCJS)​. Originally listed onDecember 2012 Completed ATI Requests list (file # A-2012-00097). 
Please contact me if you want a copy. I haven't attached it here because the 29-page report is a huge 86 MB PDF because ATI documents are released as images.
Excerpt from page 2: 

"Information on individual alleged offenders and victims processed by the criminal justice system, including descriptions of Aboriginal status and racial background, is routinely collected from the records of  criminal justice agencies. However, because this information is collected to meet the disparate operational needs of the agencies involved, the data often lacks the consistency necessary for comparative purposes.

Police services, for example, have the ability to collect Aboriginal and racial data, and many are, in fact, currently recording such data for intelligence purposes and/or when it is relevant to a criminal investigation. The internal data management systems utilized by police services collect detailed information on the racial background of accused persons and the victims involved in crime incidents. While some police forces report Aboriginal information to the CCJS, the majority of forces refuse to do so. The Integrated Criminal Court Survey and the Integrated Correctional Survey are also valuable sources of information on individuals processed through the criminal justice system. Racial information is not systematically collected as part of the Integrated Criminal Court Survey, however, this may be included in th survey where deemed important by stakeholders. The Integrated Correctional Survey currently collects self-reported racial information of individuals entering the correctional system. Furthermore, the potential exists to link police-reported and court data to corrections records, which would allow for a more extensive examination of criminal justice and social policy issues.

The vast majority of data on the racial background of individuals processed through the Canadian criminal justice system is used for internal purposes and is not made publicly available in any systematic way. The  most readily available criminal justice data that includes information on race is the Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview, produced by Public Safety Canada; this document includes a "one day snapshot" of the race of all offenders under federal supervision."

​​3. Whitewashing Criminal Justice in Canada: Preventing Research through Data Suppression


Journal Article
AuthorPaul Millar
AuthorAkwasi Owusu-Bempah
PublicationCanadian Journal of Law & Society / La Revue Canadienne Droit et Société
DateDecember 2011
Accessed2016-04-27, 8:46:50 PM
AbstractRace and racism have long played an important role in Canadian law and continue to do so. However, conducting research on race and criminal justice in Canada is difficult given the lack of readily available data that include information about race. We show that data on the race of victims and accused persons are being suppressed by police organizations in Canada and argue that suppression of race prevents quantitative anti-racism research while not preventing the use of these data by the police for racial profiling. We also argue that when powerful institutions, such as the police, have knowledge that they keep secret or refuse to discover, it serves the interests of those institutions at the expense of the public. Fears that reporting of racial data will result in racial profiling or the stigmatization of racialized communities are not assuaged by the repression of this information. Stigmatization may still occur, and racial profiling can continue to happen, but without public knowledge. Quantitative anti-racist research requires consistent, institutionalized reporting of race data through all aspects of Canadian justice. We outline what data are available, what data are needed, and where consistency is lacking. It is argued that institutional preferences for white-washed data, with race and ethnicity removed, should be subrogated to transparency.