The construction of new correctional facilities alone will cost about $1.8 billion over five years, the PBO 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," PBO Kevin 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 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, the PBO 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.
New prisons neededBut 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 PBO 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."
Imprisoning more people for longer periods will not solve any problems. It will cause further overcrowding in prisons, and not acknowledge the poor conditions and overcrowding experienced by inmates in remand, where they are given little access to exercise and rehabilitation. Imprisoning more people for longer periods, fails to address the root causes of crime and underlying factors such as poverty, unemployment, lack of education, mental illness, addictions, etc. Building more prisons will not solve the prison overcrowding. Judges need less reliance on imprisonment and more on alternative sanctions. We also need to abolish mandatory minimum sentences because they allow judges zero discretion in considering all circumstances surrounding an offender and their crime. Only the most dangerous individuals, such as psychopaths and sociopaths should be imprisoned. The mentally ill, addicted, aboriginals, non violent, drug and property offenders should not be in prison. The Conservatives are basing their policies on zero evidence/research and they are only an emotional response to the public's fear of crime, which is irrational since the crime rates has been declining for 25 years now. The media is to blame for sensationalizing the most violent, rare and unusual crimes. We do not need to get tough on crime, we need to get smart on crime. That means looking at the research, and acting logically, reasonably and rationally. Increasing prison sentences does not have a deterrent effect as most criminals are impulsive and not rational. Most criminals do not consider the consequences of their actions or the possibility of imprisonment.
The prisons are already over crowded. The number of new spaces will hardly solve the current problem let alone address the added numbers the new legislation wishes to add to the jails.