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.
Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page, seen here in 2008, released a report into the projected costs of incarceration at a press conference on Tuesday. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)
"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 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:
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.
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:
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."
Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre
The conservatives have just committed a crime against humanity to decide to
whorehouse human beings like sardines, many of whom will be absolutely innocent
of any crime. The prisons at present cannot hold those projected numbers and no
one is going to pay for all those extra prisons to be built.
The decision contradicts reality, if the government spent 10% of that projected increase on crime prevention etc, it would decrease crime by the same projected increase while lowering prison numbers.
The logic is flawed, increased sentences do not result in lower crime or less crime or less criminals, on the contrary.
If our justice system simply gave men equal rights under law, our criminal justice system would be dramatically unloaded overnight.
The first step will be a Legal Presumption of Equal Parenting and reform to the Extreme Feminist child support guidlines that is at present filling our jails not with deadbeat dads but dads who become unemployed or simply can't work.
One other solution is to introduce police for our judiciary to ensure that flagrant abuses of power are dealt with. That alone will reduce our prison population significantly.
The conservative approach is a mindless senseless plan that defies logic. It may be politically popular but that does not mean its in the best interests or economic interest for Canada.