New sentencing law will cost taxpayers $640 million

Elimination of two-for-one pre-sentencing credits will add 160 days to two years to the costs of keeping federal inmates behind bars.

Ottawa (6 Oct. 2010) - The Harper government has failed to level with Canadians about the cost of tougher mandatory sentencing guidelines for criminals, says Parliament's budget watchdog.

Along with the federal government, the provinces and territories will end up bearing significant new costs as a result of the harsher requirements, says Kevin Page, the parliamentary budget officer.

In a report Tuesday, Page says bureaucrats with the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) refused several requests from his office to provide him with full information about the anticipated costs of the Conservatives' Truth In Sentencing Act.

The legislation would eliminate the credits criminals now earn to reduce their sentence based on the amount of time they spend in custody before sentencing.

Despite the government's failure to cooperate, Page says he has been able to estimate that the new law will cost taxpayers up to $640 million a year and that the government has not factored those additional expenses into its budget planning.

"Parliamentarians should be concerned about the lack of transparency on the costing of the Truth in Sentencing Act," Page notes, adding that the impact will be "significant" to provincial and territorial governments.

The legislation came into effect in February. It prevents judges from continuing the past practice of giving two days credit for every day an inmate has served prior to sentencing. The law restricts the practice to the actual number of days served, thus lengthening the overall incarceration time for inmates and the resulting costs of keeping them in jail.

Page calculates that change will extend the average stay of each inmate in a federal facility by about 160 days to two years. In turn, this will mean an additional $147,000 a year per inmate to keep each inmate in jail for the longer period.


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

More information:
Harper must foot bill for new prisons, says PEIUPSE

Issues and Campaigns
Occupational Groups