Jail Life

This page is preserved from the old ACJNet.org website:

P24. What would a typical person in prison be like?

Statistics show that the average offender serving a provincial jail sentence of less than two years is likely to be:

  • a thirty one year old male
  • convicted of a crime involving property
  • serving an average prison sentence of one month.

The typical offender in a federal penitentiary is likely to be

  • a 36 year old male
  • convicted of robbery
  • serving an average sentence of about 43 months.

Ninety seven percent of the people in federal penitentiaries are male. (04.01.98)

P25. Do prisoners just sit around in cells all day?

Modern prisons usually have gymnasiums, outside exercise facilities, libraries, television rooms, chapels, infirmaries and cafeterias. Prisoners usually have opportunities to upgrade their education through university courses or learning a variety of trades. They may also receive counseling in such areas as budgeting, anger management and spirituality. They may be able to work within the prison in laundries and cafeterias or on contracts the prison makes with outside companies and organizations. (04.01.98)

P26. Do prisoners work outside in chain gangs in Canada ?

No, there are no chain gangs of prisoners in Canada. However, low risk prisoners may volunteer to work on community projects outside the prison under supervision. Depending on the situation, sometimes they are paid and sometimes it is volunteer work. This encourages a sense of social responsibility in prisoners and also helps to prepare them to return to society when their prison sentences are over. (04.01.98)

P27. What happens to very dangerous prisoners? Are they in their cells all day?

Very high-risk prisoners are usually kept away from other prisoners in secure cells. This protects the other prisoners and also protects the dangerous inmates from other prisoners. (04.01.98)

P28. Can prisoners have visitors?

Usually, people can visit prisoners inside the prison. Visitors have to make advance arrangements and book specific times. They often must agree that the staff can watch them and search and store packages and purses until the visit is over. Sometimes low-risk prisoners can visit with their spouses and children in special trailers or facilities on the prison grounds. The visits help families stay together while one member of the family is in prison. (04.01.98)

P29. Are prison guards armed with guns?

Prison guards are not usually armed. They get special training to deal with problems without violence unless it is absolutely necessary. Since they spend their days working directly with the prisoners, carrying guns would not be a good idea. (04.01.98)

P30. Many people say that life in jail is pretty easy. Is that true?

No, life in prison is not easy. Despite what people say, losing your freedom is a very significant punishment. Prisoners cannot leave when they want. They must do what they are told. Other people set their timetables, choose their roommates and associates and when and what they eat. They are locked up in their cells at night and possibly during the day too if they misbehave. The most frequent cause of death in prison is suicide. (04.01.98)

P31. How many people in jail commit suicide?

In 1996/97, 27 people in provincial correctional institutions committed suicide and 10 people in federal penitentiaries committed suicide. The suicide rate in Canada’s prisons is twice the rate of the general population. Life in prison is not easy. (Juristat Vol.18#3 p.1) (04.01.98)