Harper must foot bill for new prisons, says PEIUPSE

Tough on crime sentencing laws causing prison population to soar. Inmates 'quadruple-bunked and sleeping in hallways.'

Shelley Ward, president of the P.E.I. Union of Public Sector Employees (PEIUPSE/NUPGE)Charlottetown (16 Aug. 2010) - The P.E.I. Union of Public Sector Employees (PEIUPSE/NUPGE) is backing a provincial demand for the Harper government to pay for the new jails required to accommodate its tough-on-crime sentencing policies.

"The Harper Conservatives did not consider the costs of implementing the Truth in Sentencing Act before it was passed," says union president Shelley Ward.

"As a result, the provinces are expected to assume significant costs to build, upgrade and maintain their prisons. The legislation, which came into effect in February 2010, limits the credit a prisoner receives for time served while in custody (waiting for trial). It also increases minimum sentencing in some cases and removes the option for house arrest in others," Ward notes.     

"In some correctional facilities inmates are at times quadruple-bunked and sleeping in the hallways. Overcrowding creates safety issues for the Correctional Officers we represent and for the inmates themselves. Passing legislation that will keep more people in jail longer will only exacerbate the problem. And if more jails need to be built to accommodate more inmates, the federal government should provide the funding,” Ward says.

A report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer in Ottawa estimates the new legislation will cost Island taxpayers up to $65 million for new prisons and as much as $41 million per year to operate them.

"Ottawa has changed a law that will require more jails on P.E.I. and they have done so without assuming the costs. We fully support Doug Currie (the province's justice minister) in his call for the federal government to provide funding to help build and operate new prisons on Prince Edward Island,” Ward says.

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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