Dear Kevin Gaudet (email@example.com),
My name is Justin Piché and I am a PhD Candidate in Sociology at Carleton University. My current research examines the scope and factors contributing to prison construction in Canada at this time. Findings of relevance to your group, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, are those that pertain to the costs of building and operating these new facilities.
In a context of declining police-reported 'crime' rates and a fiscal crisis, the provinces and territories are in the process of establishing 22 new prisons as well as 16 additions to existing facilities. The price tag for construction alone is currently estimated to be over $2.8 billion. Using figures from the Canadian Centre on Justice Statistics, I have also estimated that it will cost $343.9 million per year to operate the 6,500+ new prisoner beds once the new facilities come online. Upon request, I can send you a report I submitted and presented to the Provincial-Territorial Heads of Corrections last month (read presentation notes).
Based on the Government of Canada's own figures, we know that the overall budget of the federal penitentiary system has risen 54 percent to $2.46 billion since the Liberals tabled their last budget in 2005-2006 and is set to increase by 95.9 percent to $3.128 billion by 2012-2013. The Correctional Service of Canada's (CSC) budget for capital expenditures, which includes facility construction costs, has also increased by 138.4 percent to $329.4 million since the Conservatives have taken office and is set to rise by 237.8 percent to $466.9 million by 2012-2013. Where other federal government departments are trimming staff, the number of CSC full-time equivalent employees has risen by 11.9 percent to 16,587 since the Conservatives have taken office and is set to increase by 39.6 percent to 20,706 by 2012-2013.
It should be noted that the figures above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the costs of the Conservative punishment agenda. Consider media reports that suggest that the Parliamentary Budget Officer has calculated that it will costs between $6 and $10 billion to build prisons to absord the influx of new prisoners who will no longer get 2 or 3 days credit for every day served in remand due to prison overcrowding and poor facility conditions. This does not even include the costs associated with the operations and management of these institutions. Further, this is only the partial price tag for implementing one bill. With many more bills already or in the process of being passed, our Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews would "rather not share" the cost figures associated with these bills with Canadians.
In the past few months, your organization has focussed their attention on reducing the costs of Canada's penitentiary system by focussing on Old-Age Security and Guarenteed Income Supplements for prisoners above the age of 65. According to an article written by Janice Tibbetts (read here), the savings associated with eliminating these entitlements for prisoners could be as much as $14 million per year.
While there are doubts whether this new law would withstand a Charter challenge, I would suggest that all this focus on prisoner pensions is a distraction from the much larger costs associated with the Government of Canada's punishment agenda. As we move towards mass incarceration as our penal policy model, I would strongly encourage the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to examine what value-for-money Canadians will be getting for increasing our country's reliance on incarceration - an approach that is being abandonned on mass south of the border for reasons of finances and ineffectiveness.
Empirical research has shown that building more prisons and imprisoning more people is not an effective approach to dealing with the complex harms and conflicts in our communities that we call 'crime'. Empirical research has also shown that this approach is not cost effective, and it is not because prisoners eat three meals a day or due to the fact that some prisoners have bought TV's and radios with their own money for their cells that incarceration is expensive (see the costs associated with staffing and security).
If you would like me to present my research findings to your group, I would certainly accept your invitation. Since you have their ear, I would recommend that you pressure the Government of Canada to reveal the figures of their punishment agenda in the interim. Canadians have a right to know.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
PhD Candidate (Sociology)