Cuts to CSC Budget: What will they mean?

Posted: May 21, 2012 by Ed Griffin in Prison, Reform
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 We are fortunate to have a frequent commentator on this blog do a guest article. Joanne Kehayas is very knowledgeable about prison issues.

cutsIn its March 29 budget, the Conservative government announced it will cut $295.4 million from the Correctional Service of Canada’s (CSC) annual expenditures over the next three years.

Here is a listing of some of the cuts that have been announced so far:

1.      The LifeLine program, funded through the Correctional Service of Canada and administered by the St. Leornard’s Society in Windsor ON has been in existence for over 20 years.  Funding for it will be cut in August 2012.  LifeLine offered a community connection to long-term offenders who, because of the length of their sentence, are often all but forgotten and abandoned by their friends and family.  It provided hope that re-integration was possible and reduced the effects of institutionalization by providing a connection to the outside world.  It was also one way that Long-term lifeline programoffenders could be granted escorted temporary absences and it provided meaningful employment for lifers who had been successfully on parole for ten or more years.

2.      The institutional grievance procedure had three levels.  Prisoners first complain to the department in question.  If as resolution is not reached, then a grievance is filed to the warden (1st level), then to Regional Headquarters (2nd level) if the complaint is not satisfactorily dealt with, then finally to National Headquarters (3rd level).  The government announced that the second level of grievance procedure would be eliminated.  It is unclear what effect this might have on the grievance system but it may mean that more grievances will make it to the National Headquarters where staff may not be able to keep up with the increased demand.  On the other hand, this may now be a more efficient process.

3.      The announced closure of Kingston and Leclerc Institutions, in addition to the Regional Treatment Center in Ontario, resulted in a significant backlash from staff at those institutions and across the country.  The question of where to house the up to 1045 prisoners who would be displaced, including many who have special needs, is one that has not been adequately answered.  Some of these would be sent to some of the new 96-cell facilities opening up within institutions throughout the country (a total of 2700 cells).  Of greatest concern, in my opinion, is the housing of the special needs prisoners, especially some high profile prisoners at Kingston and those who reside at the Regional Treatment Centre, a forensic psychiatric facility, of which there would only be 3 remaining in the country.  This means that prisoners with serious mental illness would have to either be housed in facilities where they would not receive optimal care or in other provinces, where they would be far from their community support.

cuts4.      Inmate pay has not increased in some 30 years (beginning in 2005, $4.00 is provided every two weeks to spend only on hygiene products).  People serving sentences rely on pay for many, many things not provided by the service, especially in this climate of cuts, where less and less is being provided (prisoners will be charged more for telephone calls, for example).  The reductions also mean that prisoners cannot save money to use upon release so they might not be a burden on taxpayers.  Not only will there not be an increase to cover costs that have risen with the cost of living, but recent announcements indicate that prisoners will be provided with even less money.  There are effectively three pay levels where prisoners are considered to be making money for employment.  The government has announced that those in the upper two levels would be paying 30% of their income for room and board.  Effectively, this means that all employed prisoners will make the same amount.  The government has eliminated incentives to take programs, to upgrade education, or to do a better job in one’s place of employment.  They have also, at the suggestion of CSC officials, eliminated incentive pay or those working for CORCAN (a corporation that allows prisoners to learn and use trades skills to provide labour for products sold for profit in the market).  CSC officials apparently said that there is a huge demand for CORCAN jobs, therefore a pay incentive (CORCAN workers currently make anywhere from $0.50 – $2.30 / hour)) is not necessary.  Many CORCAN workers would send the money they made back home to help support their families and to offset the costs of visits and telephone calls.

5.      There are other cuts being made within the Correctional Service of Canada aimed at trimming the budget that were not directly initiated by the government, but are being done to meet demands created by the shrinking budget.  These cuts may vary from region to region and institution to institution and therefore do not necessarily apply across the board.  Some of these include the elimination (or reduction) of librarian positions (this means that for many institutions there is no librarian, which means limited access to existing books and no new books coming in), the scrapping of the GED program in schools, the refusal to fund teachers for exam scrutineering (effectively preventing prisoners from taking most post-secondary courses, which they themselves pay for), a reduction in the hours that hobby shops are open, changes in food service menus and the elimination of self-serve items (e.g., salad bar; milk dispenser), a substantial increase in double bunking, whereby 4-6 cells on each range are being retro-fitted, as well as many if not all the new units having double-bunked or double-bunk-capable cells.

Vic Toews

Vic Toews
Public Safety Minister

Although these seem like substantial changes, together they account for perhaps just over half of the announced reduction in the budget over the next three years.  We are clearly going to have to brace ourselves for much more.



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  1. […] Cuts to the CSC Budget: What will they mean? from Prison Uncensored: The Truth Behind Bars (blog written by a man who teaches creative writing in prison in Western Canadian) […]

    • LOLO says:

      well of course Harper is a greasy bastard and needs a kick to the face. As for collect calls from prison im sure there just sucking more money from the lower income famlies with loved ones in prison, People make mistakes and are trying to rehabilitate themselves in an alreadt fuked up prison system and are in need of the support of family and friends!!! So Harper have a heart you BASTERED , YOUR ALREADY HATED SO MUCH AND WELL WE ALL KNOW WHAT HAPPENS TO GREEDY PEOPLE, YOU’LL GET YOURS, KARMA ALWAYS COMES BACK TO PAY THOSE PPL BACK THAT NEED PAY BACK!!! LOTS OF LUCK TO YOU WHILE YOU KEEP LINING YOUR POCKETS FUCKER……..

  2. At Stony Mountain, the telephone system was changed several years ago. Previously part of the normal Manitoba Telephone System, where calls into Winnipeg were local, and therefore free, the service has been contracted out to the Harper government’s pals at Bell Canada, routing them through Ontario. Long-distance charges are now enormous, especially for collect calls. The only relief, i guess, is that this new system frequently breaks down, so inmate phone calls are impossible. Phoning out is difficult (phoning in is, of course, impossible) because the inmate must have each number added to his “PIN”–his telephone account, and he must place more money from his institutional savings account on it, which is allowed only once per month. Penitentiary authorities don’t want inmates talking to their families and friends, I guess.

    • Joanne says:

      Yes Chris, the Bell system is now national. It costs 10 cents a minute to call direct, which is better than the 30 cents a minute collect calling rate. And yes, the system frequently does not work and collect calls are the only option at that time. Of course collect calls are not always possible, as not all telephone carriers have the capacity for them. In effect, then, I agree with you, that it would seem that the authorities do not want those in prison to have contact with their loved ones, or at the minimum, they just don’t care.

    • Ed Griffin says:

      How sad. Family is a big hope for a person changing. Frankly, it’s what keeps me on the straight and narrow.

  3. Ironically the Harper government is running prisons like hotels at least in the respect of findng all the “profit centres” they can. Now, inmate telephone calls out are making somebody a lot of money (see above), and all of the numerous CORCAN industries, paying only a fraction of minimum wage and eliminating incentives (which only applied when they had to get an order out on a deadline), will further increase their profit margins. As for food service, at Stony Mountain, at least, it is on the Units, a tray for each inmate, like it or lump it, but allowing inmates to buy extra at the canteen (engendering many compaints and grievances, but so what).

    • Joanne says:

      Wow! I had no idea that there were institutions that served food only on the unit now. And those trays hold tiny portions! The kitchen only provides as much food as they need to to sustain the average person (according to the Canada Food Guide). So gone are many people’s hopes of engaging in healthy recreational activities such as running, weight training, sports, that require extra calories. The only extra calories they can get are from junk food available on the canteen.

      The more I hear about what the changes could mean, the more depressed I get.

      • Ed Griffin says:

        Related to your comment is the new military schedule in prisons. It used to be that a man could go to the gym any time of day and work out his muscles and his ghosts. Now the gym, the library, the craft shop etc. etc. are closed except during a few hours of the day.

  4. big jim says:

    I was told there restrictions on the kinds of books are allowed to read and any book sent to prisoner as a gift must go to the library to be vetted and then must stay in the library or be destroyed. I bought a book by Chris Hedges about poverty in the US text and illustrations and had a signed copy for my friend but was told that the name revolution in the title it would never make it through. It was just a name not a factual. Is there a list of suitable reading material and who decides, people at each prison? Libraries should be important educational resources. When did they take away word processors from prisoners with writing skills?

    • Ed Griffin says:

      You’ve got a couple of questions in there, Jim. As to restrictions on books and censorship, yes they do it. But each prison seems to have a different policy. The word Revolution in itself should not stop the censor. How about the “Bible Revolution.” or the revolution in genetic healing?
      The system does demand that all books come from a commercial book seller or publishing house. Like getting Chapters to send the book or Barnes and Noble (are they still around?) in the States. People used to slip drugs into the books so you can understand the reluctance there.
      I don’t know what to tell you, since this is a special, signed book. Perhaps writing to the prison where your friend is and asking the authorities if something could be worked out.

      As for word processors, you are almost right and it’s a shame. In a prison with 300 guys, there are five computers in the library. Other prisons will have one computer in a unit for thirty guys. This is a tragedy. Our society is run by computers. Every single job you can think of uses a computer, yet our prison system does not allow computers and doesn’t teach them. They should be teaching everything from basic skills to business programs

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