Federal offender security classifications and transfers


Maintaining the safety and security of institutions and the public is at the core of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC)’s mandate. CSC’s work is guided by law. Everything we do and every decision we take must be within the framework of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) and Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations (CCRR). This includes the security classification and transfer of offenders. One of the guiding principles, specified in the CCRA, that guides CSC is to use the least restrictive measure consistent with the protection of society, staff members, and offenders. 

As part of its mission and mandate, CSC is required to ensure that offenders have the opportunity to engage in their correctional plan and rehabilitation, regardless of whether they will remain incarcerated in a federal facility for the duration of their sentence or not.

Security classification of inmates

From the time an individual is sentenced by the Courts and admitted to the federal correctional system, they are assessed and must be placed in an institution that corresponds to their security classification. Decisions on security classification must be in accordance with the law, as defined in the CCRA and CCRR. CSC's approach to both initial security classification and security reclassification includes the use of evidence-based assessment instruments together with the professional judgment of specialized staff.

The security level is determined based on:

  • Consideration of the security classification rating using the Custody Rating Scale or the Security Reclassification Scale, which are both actuarial tools that generate a score based on an inmate’s history background, for example, security-related incidents, previous escapes, offence severity, and their progress while in-custody.
  • The decision maker’s assessment of the following three areas:
  1. required degree of supervision and control within the institution (institutional adjustment)
  2. escape risk
  3. public safety risk

Minimum-security inmates must be rated LOW in all three areas. Maximum-security inmates are those that are rated HIGH on institutional adjustment or are rated HIGH on both escape risk and risk to the safety of the public. For any ratings that fall outside of this, inmates would be classified as medium security.

The security classification must be reassessed at least every two years for those who are classified at the maximum or medium level.

At any point, an inmate can be returned to a higher security level, if deemed necessary, to ensure the safety of the public or our institutions.

Security classification of institutions

CSC operates institutions at essentially three levels of security: maximum, medium and minimum. La Macaza Institution has similar static security protocols to Millhaven Institution. Only offenders assessed as low risk to public safety are placed in a minimum-security institution.

La Macaza Insitution

  • Well-defined perimeter, high fences and armed controlled
  • Strictly guarded 24/7
  • Inmate movement is monitored and controlled
  • Inmate participates and engages in their correctional plan
  • Access to programs and interventions
  • Access to visits and family and volunteer support systems

Millhaven Institution

  • Well-defined perimeter, high fences and armed controlled
  • Strictly guarded 24/7
  • Inmate movement is strictly monitored and controlled
  • Inmate shows interest in their correctional plan
  • Access to programs and interventions
  • Access to visits and family and volunteer support systems

Offender Transfers

CSC has a rigorous case management process in place and all transfers (voluntary, involuntary or emergency) are made in accordance with the CCRA. Transfers play an important role in CSC’s ability to manage the inmate population within our legal framework, and are key to meeting CSC’s mission and mandate. Transfers from an institution to another may occur for many reasons, including when an offender’s security classification is reviewed or to ensure offenders have access to the appropriate programs based on their correctional plan needs, such as facilities that specialize in managing sex offenders and protective custody cases.

When transferring an offender, CSC selects the appropriate level of security by taking into account the degree and type of control they require to ensure the ongoing safety of the public, victims, offenders, and our staff. All transfers of inmates to lower levels of security occur only after CSC has duly considered public safety.

Victim Services and Notifications

CSC is committed to upholding victims’ rights and taking a victim-informed approach when making decisions or recommendations regarding offenders. Victim considerations are taken into account in case management and decision-making. This includes reviewing all victim statements on file, whether submitted in court or directly to CSC. At any time in an offender’s sentence, a victim can submit a new or updated statement to CSC for consideration.

CSC provides information and notifications to victims based on provisions in the CCRA for individuals who meet the definition of a victim under the law. Victims may register to receive information on matters relating to offenders, including transfers, unescorted temporary absences and parole board hearings.

Victim concerns must be included in the overall assessment for transfers prior to the decisions. Victims services staff are consulted as part of this decision-making process, and we work to uphold the Canadian Victim Bill of Rights. As per policy, the Victim Services Unit notifies victims as soon as a transfer has been completed for transfers to a medium-security or a maximum-security institution.

In this case, victims were called twice, once prior to the transfer as a heads up, and after the transfer was complete. They also received written notification. The information provided to them included the security level, location, and a summary of the reasons for the transfer. We also explained the differences between medium and maximum institutions. Registered victims also received a Correctional Plan Progress Report for Paul Bernardo.

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