Written By: Adshake Kunanithy
Every day, we hear about crimes of all sorts on the news, from bank robberies to drunk driving, and are always left shocked and angry in the name of justice. However, have you ever questioned the aftermath of court cases, the life of incarnated souls or even the system itself? Questions and concerns related to the funding of prisons and quality of life are rarely addressed and should not be camouflaged as they affect our economy.
Are Incarcerated Facilities Really Free Hotels?
According to The John Howard Society of Canada, in the fiscal year of 2017-18, adult correctional services expenditures ranged to over $5 million (55% for provincial and 45% federal) with federal government spending reaching $2.4 billion which was generated from a portion of our Canadian taxes (9).
Some of these expenses include salaries of inmates and employees, utilities, professional and special services, equipment, and maintenance. There are also costs associated with arresting each inmate. The cost per offender is broken down to the type of inmate and security level with male offenders costing $47,370 – $92,740 per year, female offenders at $83.861 per year and youth at $83,861 per year (2).
Now, it may be shocking to know that your Canadian taxes are being invested in detention centers and that prisoners have the opportunity to earn a salary. However, the government’s continuous cuts on prison funding and the treatment towards inmates uncuff another story.
According to the Verdict, You are GUILTY.
Before we investigate the problems with the justice system, it is important to acknowledge the demographics, and more specifically, WHO ends up in jail. The Ontario Ministry of Solicitor General states that Ontario alone has over 25 correctional facilities that include correctional, detention centres and prisons (3).
Within these facilities lies millions of inmates, with males and people of colour representing a large percentage when compared to the overall Canadian population. In fact, in 2017/18, Indigenous people were 29-30% more likely to be admitted to jail despite representing 4% of the total Canadian adult population (5).
Canadian Statistics and the Black Lives Matter movement also highlight that the justice system is living proof of systematic racism and some changes need to be made. This itself is one of the many problems occurring behind prison cells and leaves the country with a PRISON CRISIS.
The Repercussions Of Being Caged In
Imagine living in a seven square metre room (smaller than a dorm in Village 1) and having two to three roommates sharing a singular toilet. On top of being contained in a small confinement, imagine dealing with psychological issues yourself and being surrounded by unfamiliar people.
This is the case of many prisoners who have to deal with the repercussions of overcrowding. Now, you might be wondering what happened to all the tax money that I mentioned earlier. Well, with police-reported crimes increasing 5.1% annually, prison funding cuts, thousands of dollars spent moving inmates to different faculties and the millions of dollars to constructing a new facility, overcrowding will continue to pertain due to one factor: HIGH EXPENSES (6).
The current prison model of segregating people into smaller rooms and giving them the bare necessities not only rank up in costs and mental health issues but does not support the root purpose of these systems: RETRIBUTION for the crimes committed and REHABILITATION. In this case, despite the punishments and trauma prisoners face in these situations, it does not stop or discourage other people from committing crimes (8).
A Not So Luxurious Lifestyle Behind Bars
Another concern that should be addressed is the lifestyle behind bars. Did you know that similar to the outside world, prisoners can receive employment opportunities to save for the future and afford basic necessities like food and hygiene products (4)?
Due to a decrease in government funding, they are given smaller portions of poor quality food which leaves them to rely on a low source of income in order to sustain a decent quality of life. To add on, inmates need to pay for hygiene products which are valued higher compared to a pharmacy since there is high demand and low supply. Affording these inflated products is an issue when governments have been cutting their daily wages.
In 2019 alone, prisoners could receive $5.25-6.90 per day, way lower than minimum wage in Ontario ($13.40 per hour for students), which does not cover the fees for living in a cell (phone calls, medication, etc). The purpose of the labour program CORCAN is for prisoners to adjust to the workforce when they return and generate revenue for the Correctional Services Canada. However, at what cost do they suffer at (4)?
Other than the severely low employment income, inmates are subjected to abuse and forced to work for the sake of increasing revenue for the government. Since they are not recognized as public sector employees, the laws against an unsafe workplace lie within the grey lines and are not addressed (4).
Every Day, Another Crime Is Being Committed.
Overcrowding and poor treatment towards prisoners only represent a small portion of the problems that occur within the justice system but WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? Why are there people committing crimes after being incarcerated? Why are they committing crimes in the first place? The answers to these questions are quite complex and can be narrowed down to three main categories: economic, social and physiological issues.
People have the tendency to commit a crime if they are not given the resources to thrive in a regular setting. Cities with less government funding, lack of education facilities or even job opportunities are more likely to have higher rates of crime for the purpose of survival. On the other hand, it also depends on the person’s situation in terms of how they were raised and brought up by the people that surround them. Those who were often neglected or did not have the resources for mental health treatment are also prone to committing crimes as a harmful way to express their emotions (8).
Renovating Parts of the Justice System
Although detention centers are meant to punish those who commit evil, it is important to consider the rehabilitation process. Rehabilitation is supposed to help improve inmate behaviour and reduce crime rates without creating some of the mentioned prison issues.
Traditional prison methodologies should be uncaged and the metal bars should be lifted to allow room for improvement and growth of the community.
The government should focus more on reducing crime rates by implementing more social programs related to education services and finding cost-efficient ways to run incarcerated facilities without decreasing the quality of life for inmates. Both of these solutions would help to reduce Canadian unemployment rates and further stimulate the economy.
1. Chan, Jody. (2017). Federally sentenced inmates’ maximum daily payment of $6.90 was set more than 30 years ago [Infographic]. Jodychan.com. https://www.jodychan.com/prisons-infographics
2. Government of Canada Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (2018). Update on Costs of Incarceration. https://www.pbo-dpb.gc.ca/web/default/files/Documents/Reports/2018/Update%20Incarceration%20Costs/Update%20on%20Costs%20of%20Incarceration_EN.pdf
3. Government of Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General (2020). Correctional Services. https://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/english/corr_serv/CS_main.html
4. Ling, Justin. (2019, September 16). Prison labour. National Magazine. https://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/english/corr_serv/CS_main.htmlhttps://www.nationalmagazine.ca/en-ca/articles/law/in-depth/2019/all-work-and-low-pay
5. Malakieh, Jamil. (2019). Adult and youth correctional statistics in Canada, 2017/2018. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2019001/article/00010-eng.htm
6. Statistics Canada. (2020, October 29). Police-reported crime increases in 2019. [Catalogue Number: 85-002-X). https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/201029/dq201029a-eng.htm?indid=4751-1&indgeo=0
7. The Forbes. (2020). Retrieved January 21, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/lipiroy/2020/03/11/infections-and-incarceration-why-jails-and-prisons-need-to-prepare-for-covid-19-stat/?sh=1218a91749f3
8. The Editorial Board. (2020, October 30). Canada’s overcrowded prisons are failing at their main mission – rehabilitation. The Globe And Mail. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/editorials/article-canadas-overcrowded-prisons-are-failing-at-their-main-mission/
9. The John Howard Society of Canada. (2018, August 23). Financial facts on Canadian prisons. he The John Howard Society of Canada. https://johnhoward.ca/blog/financial-facts-canadian-prisons/