list of prisons in canada 1

List of prisons in Canada

Canada has a variety of correctional facilities run by different levels of government. From the solitary confinement unit at Quebec’s Special Handling Unit prison to the Indigenous healing lodges dotting the Prairies, the complexes reflect Canada’s geographic and cultural diversity. While recent years have seen rising incarceration rates, especially amongst marginalized groups, community-based initiatives provide some hope for transformative justice.

Federal vs. Provincial/Territorial Facilities

The type of facility an offender serves their sentence in depends on the length of their term. Anyone sentenced to 2+ years ends up in a federal prison run by the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). These include penalties for serious crimes like murder, major drug offenses, and fraud over $5,000. Provincial and territorial governments manage facilities for those with sentences under 2 years, mainly for lower-level crimes.

Within these streams, penitentiaries have varying security levels. Women, for example, can land in Grand Valley Institution’s minimum-security sector or its medium one.

Notable Federal Prisons

A few major prisons stand out in the federal correctional system. Millhaven Institution houses some of Canada’s most notorious killers, gang leaders, and terrorists in its maximum-security wings. With hourly patrols and rolls of razor wire, it epitomizes the cold, isolated experience popular culture conjures around prison.

Joyceville Institution offers a sharp contrast as one of CSC’s “training prisons” for soon-to-be-released medium- and minimum-security inmates. Its campus-style design with shared rooms looks more like a college dormitory.

See also  Brockville Jail

Prisons in Ontario

As Canada’s most populous province, Ontario houses a sizeable portion of the country’s jailed persons. The 52-acre Maplehurst Correctional Complex contains various facilities, including a notorious superjail whose frequent lockdowns have provoked lawsuits. Other notable Ontario prisons include the Toronto South Detention Centre, a 1,650-bed maximum/medium-security center known for violence and overcrowding.

Meanwhile, the province also has several lower-security jails for those awaiting trial or serving short sentences. Examples include the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre and Quinte Detention Centre.

Prisons in Quebec

La Belle Province divides administration between federal and provincial correctional services. For inmates like serial poisoner Alfi Henriksson, the Regional Reception Centre at the Special Handling Unit (SHU) in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines is the final destination. As the intake point for Quebec’s four maximum-security prisons, it includes the province’s solitary confinement disciplinary unit.

On the other end of the spectrum is Quebec’s sole privately-run prison. The medium-security Bordeaux Prison houses provincial inmates in a McConnell-style facility managed by French multinational GEPSA. Its modern campus contrasts with aging complexes like Leclerc Institution, Quebec’s only provincial prison for women.

Regional Breakdown of Facilities

Prisons within Canada fall under regional administration streams that align closely with geography:

Atlantic Canada

The Atlantic region contains four federal institutions, including Nova Institution for Women and New Brunswick’s Westmorland Institution minimum-security prison. Provincially, the new state-of-the-art Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility represents the largest Atlantic facility for lower-risk offenders.

Prairie Provinces

The Prairie region holds several notable prisons like the Stony Mountain Institution men’s medium-security penitentiary in Manitoba. Saskatchewan is also home to one of CSC’s two maximum-security women’s prisons: the Prison for Women.

See also  Joliette Institution for Women

Yet healing lodges like the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge for Aboriginal Women in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan have gained increasing prominence. With First Nations culture infusing programming rooted in Ojibwa values, the lodges mark a groundbreaking approach.

Pacific Region

British Columbia contains a quarter of Canada’s total prisoner count within both federal and provincial institutions. Several notorious penitentiaries lie within CSC’s Pacific division, including Kent Institution (max security) and Mountain Institution (medium security).

Provincially, the Alouette Correctional Centre houses female inmates in a progressive environment enabling mother-child interaction. The Pacific region also holds Canada’s only federal facility in the territories: the Kwikwèxwelhp Healing Village for Indigenous men in Metro Vancouver.


Far North facilities operate on a territorial rather than federal/provincial level due to jurisdictional considerations. The Baffin Correctional Centre above the treeline in Iqaluit, for example, services the vast majority of Nunavut inmates. Adapted to Inuit culture, some centres like Nunavut’s women’s correctional have trailblazing programming.

Types of Correctional Facilities

Canada’s correctional landscape features more than purely punitive prisons—many focus on rehabilitation, skills training, and community reintegration.

Healing Lodges

Healing lodges take a groundbreaking approach centered on Indigenous values and culture. Security features fade into the background at these “communities behind fences”. Elders provide guidance to residents, who direct healing plans rooted in tradition. With 10 lodges funded federally and more run by bands or non-profits, healing has become a viable alternative.

Treatment Centers

Five CSC treatment centres concentrate mental health expertise and intensive programming tailored for offenders requiring specialized care. Facilities like Saskatchewan Penitentiary feature hospital-grade wings and step-down units nearer regular population areas. Few countries offer such extensive psychiatric treatment within their prison systems.

See also  Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre

Detention Centers

Lower-risk populations awaiting trial or serving short sentences under two years fall under provincial/territorial jurisdiction. Their detention centers consist of dormitory pods opening onto common areas rather than self-contained cells. With comparatively lax security features, programming takes precedence.


While some facilities still embrace austere 19th century architectures and punitive models, Correctional Services Canada has increasingly shifted towards rehabilitation-focused environments. Healing lodges and treatment centers represent particularly radical innovations centered on community integration.

Ultimately, Canada’s prisons remain uniquely diverse. As cultural intersections grow within a globalizing justice landscape, these institutions will likely continue adapting to reflect an ever-evolving national identity.

Key Takeaways

  • Offenders serve federal time (2+ years) or provincial/territorial sentences (under 2 years)
  • Healing lodges represent groundbreaking centres focused on Indigenous programming
  • Special Handling Unit represents Canada’s sole supermax provincial facility
  • Women, healing, mental health treatment central within prisons
  • Security levels determine inmate risk and restrictions


What is Canada’s only criminal supermax prison?

The Special Handling Unit (SHU) at the Regional Reception Centre in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines serves as Canada’s only super-maximum-security provincial prison.

How are federal prisons and provincial/territorial corrections facilities different?

Federal prisons run by Correctional Service Canada (CSC) house those with 2+ year sentences while provincial/territorial facilities contain people sentenced under 2 years for lower-level crimes.

What was Canada’s first Aboriginal healing lodge?

The O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi healing lodge in Manitoba, established in 1996, became Canada’s first Aboriginal healing lodge under CSC’s Aboriginal Continuum of Care model.

What are detention centers?

Detention centers house lower-risk, remanded individuals awaiting trial or serving short provincial/territorial sentences under two years. They have dormitories instead of cells and focus on programming over security.

How many people are incarcerated across Canada?

Canada has approximately 40,000 adults incarcerated in both federal and provincial/territorial correctional systems, one of the highest incarceration rates among Western nations.

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