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Yukon incarceration rate drops 30%

Yukon's adult incarceration rate, and its number of admissions, dropped more than any other province or territory between 2016 and 2018.

Average custody rates and number of admissions lowest in 5 years

Custody numbers affect operating costs, workload and potential overcrowding, as well as the ability to rehabilitate inmates. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

Yukon's adult incarceration rate, and its number of admissions, dropped more than any other province or territory between 2016 and 2018.

According to the latest numbers from Statistics Canada, Yukon's adult incarceration rate, which counts the average number of inmates in any kind of custody per day for every 100,000 people, dropped by 30 per cent between fiscal 2016 and 2017.

The total number of admissions to adult correctional services dropped by 13 per cent.

Both Yukon indicators are the lowest they've been in five years.

While the actual number of people in custody in Yukon is small compared to the provinces, the incarceration rate is a useful tool for creating an overall picture of correctional services across the country.

"Anytime we see [a decrease] in any jurisdiction, that's a positive message," said Jamil Malakieh, the survey manager for the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

According to the report, higher custody numbers affect operating costs, workload and potential overcrowding, as well as the ability to successfully administer rehabilitative programming.

'Anytime we see [a decrease] in any jurisdiction, that’s a positive message,' said Jamil Malakieh, the survey manager for the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. (CBC News)

"We see this as an encouraging trend, and it's one that I hope, maybe not on such magnitude, but that we can continue to demonstrate," said Al Lucier, Yukon's assistant deputy minister of community justice and public safety.

First Nations over-represented in Yukon custody

Lucier gives much of the credit to a six per cent reduction in overall reported crime in Yukon, but also recent efforts by multiple government departments, First Nations and non-profits to embrace a different approach to public safety and community wellness.

"We play a part in it, but our institutional numbers, either in remand or in-custody sentences, are really the end result of the overall justice system," he said.

He highlights Yukon's community wellness courts, homelessness initiatives and community mental health hubs as contributing factors.

Lucier admits there is still work to do, and says the department needs to focus on the issue of over-representation of First Nations in Yukon custody, which at 62 per cent is twice the national average.

He also hopes to address the issue of disproportionate numbers of inmates in custody as they await trial or sentencing, as opposed to actual sentenced custody, which jurisdictions across the country are also struggling with.

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