State of the Criminal Justice System Report
Impact of COVID-19 on the Criminal Justice System
The inaugural State of the Criminal Justice System Report (2019) provided a comprehensive analysis of Canada’s criminal justice system performance across key Framework indicators. This report focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the operation of the criminal justice system (CJS). Using the State of the Criminal Justice System (SOCJS) performance monitoring Framework as a lens, it reports on key pre- and post-pandemic trends for indicators with available data. Notably, the report explores: policing during the pandemic; court operations, efficiencies and measures of adaptation; and, correctional operations and trends in admissions as well as releases. Click the tabs below to access the various sections of this report. Previous reports can also be found below.
This edition of the State of the Criminal Justice System (SOCJS) report focuses on monitoring key changes that occurred within the criminal justice system (CJS) since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It compares indicators of performance prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to those indicators up to two years into the pandemic, where data have been collected and made available. The following presents key findings from the report organized by the nine expected outcomes from the State of the Criminal Justice System Performance Monitoring Framework. Note that not all 42 performance indicators in the Framework were examined as part of this report due to unavailability of data before and after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.Footnote1
Outcome #1: Canadians are safe and individuals and families feel safe.
- Overall, the police-reported crime rate and Crime Severity Index decreased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and have not reached pre-pandemic levels in 2021.
- In the first eight months following the start of the pandemic, there were significant shifts in the types of calls for service police received during the pandemic, with notable increases in calls for service related to mental health and wellness checks.
- The types of crimes reported during the pandemic have also changed, including:
- Notable decreases in property crimes in 2021, likely due to people spending more time at home following the restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19;
- Substantial increases in select violations such as: identity theft and identity fraud in 2020; and, hate crimes, opioid-related offences and child pornography in 2020 and 2021;
- Police-reported family violence increased slightly in 2021; however, the data suggest that family violence is largely underreported.
- In May 2020, half of crowdsourcing participantsFootnote2 felt that the level of crime in their neighbourhood has not changed since the pandemic; racialized people reported lower levels of safety than non-racialized people both before and after the start of the pandemic.
Outcome #2: The CJS is fair and accessible.
- About one year into pandemic, Canadians were less likely than before the pandemic to report being confident that the CJS is accessible and fair to all people than before the pandemic started. One year later, confidence levels have started to return to pre-pandemic levels.
- The number of adults and youth in remand/pre-trial detention decreased during the first year after the start of the pandemic. However, adults in remand make up an increasingly larger proportion of all adults in provincial and territorial custody (remand and sentenced).
- The number of approved criminal legal aid applications decreased in 2020/2021, but approved applications as a proportion of all legal aid applications remained stable and unchanged since the pandemic.
Outcome #3: Canadians understand the role of and express confidence in the CJS.
- Canadians’ awareness of the role of different components of the CJS (police, courts, corrections) was lower during the first year of the pandemic, but has started to return to pre-pandemic levels for all three components of the CJS over the second year.
Outcome #4: The CJS operates efficiently.
- Overall, the police offence clearance rateFootnote3 remained stable since the start of the pandemic, with a slight decrease in 2021.
- After the onset of the pandemic there was an initial and substantial drop in the number of adult criminal cases and youth cases completed in the courts. These numbers have since started to increase, but have not reached pre-pandemic levels in 2021/2022.
- The time required to complete a court case increased for both adults and youth over the first two years of the onset of the pandemic (2020/2021, 2021/2022). Consequently, the proportion of court cases that exceed the Jordan limit once completed has also increased.
- In 2021/2022, the percentage of cases completed in adult criminal and youth courts that had an administration of justice offence (AOJO)Footnote4 as the most serious offence in the case has remained relatively stable and unchanged since the start of the pandemic.
Outcome #5: The CJS promotes and supports diversion, Restorative Justice, Indigenous justice and tools for community-based resolution.
- In the first months of the pandemic, there were substantial decreases in adult and youth custodial populations, which resulted in lower incarceration rates. Although these numbers increased since the initial drop, they had not reached pre-pandemic levels in 2020/2021.
- There was a decrease in the use of diversion and restorative justice programs and processes in 2020, which coincided with reduced capacity for these programs.
Outcome #6: The CJS provides persons in the correctional system with services and supports to rehabilitate them and integrate them back into the community.
- During the first year of the pandemic, the proportion of federal offenders with an identified mental health need receiving treatment remained similar to the pre-pandemic proportion.
- Educational and correctional programming capacity in federal institutions was significantly reduced during the first year of the pandemic.
- One year after the onset of the pandemic, the use of section 84 releases under the Correctional and Conditional Release Act remained stable; similar proportions of Indigenous offenders were released under section 84 in 2020/2021 compared to before the pandemic.
- The proportion of federal offenders securing community employment prior to the end of their sentence decreased in 2020/2021.
- During the first year of the pandemic, there was an increase in the number of parole reviews conducted for individuals under federal correctional responsibility, including parole by exception.
- However, in 2020/2021, there was a decline in the overall proportion of individuals under federal correctional responsibility who were granted parole.
- At the start of the pandemic, there was an increase in the number of decisions to grant day parole to another location.
Outcome #7: The CJS respects victims’ and survivors’ rights and addresses their needs.
- In 2020/2021, the number of individuals registered as a victim to receive information about an individual who harmed them remained stable compared to before the pandemic.
Outcome #8: The CJS reduces the number of Indigenous people in the system.
- Since the start of the pandemic, there was an increase in homicides, particularly among Indigenous victims in 2020.
- The proportion of Indigenous persons accused of homicide, of all persons accused of homicide, decreased in 2021, the year after the onset of the pandemic.
- Indigenous adult and youth admissions to correctional services (federal, provincial and territorial) decreased, but Indigenous admissions have made up an increasingly larger proportion of overall admissions since the start of the pandemic.
- Since the pandemic, Indigenous offenders have made up an increasingly larger proportion of the total federal offender population.
- In 2020/2021, the proportion of Indigenous dangerous offenders remained stable and unchanged since the start of the pandemic.
Outcome #9: The CJS reduces the number of marginalized and vulnerable individuals in the system.
- In 2020/2021, the proportion of Black and racialized federal offenders (among total federal offender population) remained stable and unchanged since the onset of the pandemic.
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