For the purposes of this paper, we define long term inmates as those serving determinate or indeterminate federal sentences of 10 or more years. This type of inmate is affected by incarceration differently than a short term prisoner as he or she is required to spend a significant portion of his or her life in a correctional facility, cut off from family and friends, deprived of freedom, security, autonomy and heterosexual relationships, and forced to live in a rigidly structured environment that is unreflective of the outside world.

It is essential that we critically examine the effects that long term incarceration has on individuals if we are to reduce recidivism among released inmates who have spent many years in prison. This paper will attempt to provide such a critical examination. The characteristics of long term prisoners and the institutions in which they are housed will be described, the various forms of deprivation will be explored, and the outcomes of prolonged incarceration including "prisonization," coping and adaptation to the institutional environment will then be discussed.


The Long Term Inmate

As of December 3, 1997, the number of male long term inmates was 6,825: those serving their sentences in Canadian federal corrections institutions totalled 4,707; the remaining 2,118 were serving the rest of their sentences in the community (Task Force on Long Term Offenders, 1998). At the same time, there were only 179 female long term inmates in Canada: 95 were incarcerated and 84 were in the community (Task Force on Long Term Offenders, 1998). In 1992, 47.7% of federal inmates serving long term sentences had been convicted of some form of murder, of either the second or first degree (Weekes, 1992). This would suggest that those convicted of murder tend to consistently make up the largest single offender group among long term inmates. A 1983 survey indicated that the majority (71%) of male long term federal inmates were serving their first federal sentence (Wormith, 1984). Offender Intake Assessment data for 1997 shows a similar distribution - 29% of long term prisoners had been previously incarcerated in a federal institution and 71% had not. Over half (54%) had been incarcerated in a provincial institution before receiving a long term sentence (Task Force on Long-Term Offenders, 1998).

The characteristics of long term prisoners do not differ greatly from those of other federally sentenced offenders. Inmates of Aboriginal or Métis racial background comprised 10% of male and 12% of female long term inmates in 1997 (Task Force on Long-Term Offenders, 1998). These figures approximate the representation of Aboriginals in the total federal offender population. As a group, long term prisoners were older than the average federal inmate, with a mean age of 38 as of December 1991 (Weekes, 1992). This age difference could be attributed to the fact that long term inmates are likely to be serving a sentence for a serious violent offence and violent offenders, on average, tend to be older than other offenders. As far as marital status was concerned, in 1997, 72% of long term inmates were unmarried at the time of admission, but 75% indicated that they had been previously married or involved in common law relationships (Task Force on Long - Term Offenders, 1998).


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