Conservative Sentencing Act to Cost Canadians Billions

New legislation limiting the credit given to prisoners for time served in custody before and during their trials will cost taxpayers $1 billion to implement and billions more to maintain, the parliamentary budget officer said Tuesday.

The construction of new correctional facilities alone will cost about $1.8 billion over five years, parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page said in a report quantifying the implications of the Truth in Sentencing Act.

A further $618 million will be needed annually for capital appropriations and operations and maintenance costs.

“I knew incarceration was expensive,” Page told reporters Tuesday morning. “When we do the simple math in terms of longer stays, which means higher head counts and we know how expensive … incarceration is, you get to big numbers in a hurry.”

Page and his team used figures from 2007-2008 to derive their rough estimates because the federal government was unwilling to provide specific data, the report said.

“Undertaking the type of costing exercise without rigorous bottom-up data from the department [and]absent any discussion with [Correctional Service Canada] poses significant risks,” authors Ashutosh Rajekar and Ramnarayanan Mathilakath wrote.

As a result, their report, The Funding Requirement and Impact of the Truth in Sentencing Act on the Correctional System in Canada, relied on historical trends, intuition and probability, the authors said. The report “is limited to a high-level estimation” of the costs, Rajekar and Mathilakath said.

That estimation, however, suggests the costs of implementing and maintaining the new sentencing rules will be far greater than the $2 billion over five years the Conservatives cited on April 28.

Public Safety Minister Toews disagrees

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews quickly dismissed Page’s report, saying he didn’t “know where [Page] is getting his information from.”

“If you indicate that he wasn’t getting any information from Correctional Service Canada, he must be making this up,” Toews said.

The act, which went into effect on Feb. 23, limits the credit judges can give prisoners for time served before sentencing.

Such limits have three major consequences, Page’s report concluded:

Inmates will spend more time in custody.
Convicts whose credit might have kept them in provincial facilities will have to be transferred to federal prisons.
Those convicted of lighter sentences who might have been directly released into community supervision will instead be sent to correctional facilities.
The act is expected to increase the number of inmates from 8,618 in fiscal year 2007-08 to 17,058, including 9,021 in community supervision, the report said.

Would need more prisons, report says

But Canada lacks sufficient space for so many inmates, requiring construction of 13 new federal and provincial facilities at a cost of $1.8 billion, or $363 million per year for five years, the report said.

The additional facilities would include:

Two low-security facilities with 250 cells each.
Six medium-security facilities with 600 cells each.
Four high-security facilities with 400 cells each.
One multi-level security facility with 400 cells.
The new facilities would increase the annual cost of caring for inmates — including operation and maintenance expenses as well as capital appropriations — by about $618 million a year, from the current $2.2 billion to roughly $2.8 billion, the report said.

The report was unable to project the financial impacts of the Truth in Sentencing Act for the provinces and territories because of a lack of current data.

However, using a simulation, it projected that annual costs of correctional services would more than double by 2015-16, from $4.4 billion to $9.5 billion, and responsibility for funding the majority of this would shift from the federal government to the provinces and territories.

Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland criticized the Conservatives for “a lack of co-operation and disclosure.”

“The costs cannot be dumped on taxpayers and the provinces,” Holland said. “The Conservatives must sit down with the provinces and territories to address their very legitimate concerns about how these initiatives are going to be funded.”

– Article from CBC News.



  1. Anonymous on

    Seems to be an unlimited source of money with these insane costs. “Prison Hilton”, oops I mean “Paris Hilton” Hotels For Criminals!

  2. Anonymous on

    how good would it be if they showed rob nicholson telling that he is pretty sure the public want to see this kind of thing pass…. and that ummm the “money is there”. money is there translates into – we saw a pot of gold and went about getting some of it. we just dont tell the public how much it will cost.

    now there is this.

    it should be more like, we want this so much…and i dont know why our figures that we told the public dont match up with the real costs. that guy from our government..thats him, the one that studies this stuff… i dont know where he got his figures from. maybe he made them up to make what we are doing look bad.

    can you imagine them stopping these meetings so that they cant find out how much it will really cost until after these politicians run something through as law.
    why is it that when it comes to costs for these bills they dont account for it properly.
    transparency not.

  3. Anonymous on

    Here’s a question to ask your local member of the Conservative Party , and it’s a pretty simple one .

    You’r going to spend how much on expanding the prison system when our hospitals could use that money to actually help people?

    The word “privatization” keeps coming to mind.

  4. Anonymous on

    I thought dinosaurs were extinct…

  5. Anonymous on

    yay for santa harper, iggy and taliban jack!!!!!!!! :)……

  6. Anonymous on

    If the Cops were able to work it so they could seize proceeds of crime to cover costs of enforcement, then when will be looking at putting prisoners to work to cover the costs of incarceration ? Ir is done in other countries, it used to be done in canada.. its probably an idea to seriously look at. A billion dollars for a concrete box to guarantee security– a coal mine pretty much guarantees security as does a remote logging camp, and clean up at the tar sands project..

    There is no way Canadians will pay taxes to have a lawbreaker live better than themselves..nobody can afford that.. so it’s ” work will make you free ” all over again,, and generating $50,000 to pay your own jail costs is “gonna be brutal” :
    prisoners won;t be eligible for release if they owe any incarceration costs..

    the 21st century is not for crybabies, that’s for sure

  7. Anonymous on

    Harper is very free spending with other peoples’ money. A billion for the G8/20 crap, a few billion in extra prison costs, Harper’s a generous guy, with our money. He won’t release the actual data about how much the extra prison time will cost, because that would be transparency, you know, what Harper promised us to get elected. Of course, that’s the whole game, isn’t it. You say whatever people want to hear until you get elected and then it doesn’t matter anymore. Now that Harper is Supreme Emperor, he just does whatever the hell he wants. That’s how the political system works in “democratic” countries. Democracy is just another word for empire, only they make it look like you actually have a choice. Yeah sure, you have a choice. You can choose which political party to vote for in national elections.

    Too bad you can’t choose who will be the Prime Minister. That’s the parties themselves who choose that. Canadian citizens have no say whatsoever in who the Prime Minister is. All they can do is choose between party eenie, meenie, minie or moe, and each one is worse than the other so we really have no choice at all. Choosing “none of the above” accomplishes nothing. How does a party choose its leader? Whichever guy promises the most party members the most power and money wins. Has nothing to do with skills, abilities or competence to lead. Harper, Iggy and Layton prove that. Three completely useless shitheads. Non of them could lead the country out of a wet paper bag, much less a pointless war in Afghanistan.

  8. Bob Smokinton on

    Well well well. Isn’t this just what Marc’s been talking about? The Cons want to start up the US-style Penitentiary biz here. Harper and Nicholson are demons, they need to be ousted by ballot ASAP.