Canadian Prison System

by Randi Elsass, June 2014

1200 words

4 pages


Imprisonment is one of the traditional measures to combat crime in Canada. Incarceration in the modern sense of the word dates back to the construction of the Kingston Penitentiary in 1835. The Canadian correctional law was strongly influenced by the U.S. penitentiary justice for a long time. However, later, the advantage was given to the English corrective system. At first, Canadian prison system was aimed at isolating the offender from society and forcing him/her to hard labor and religious rites. Over the time, this type of punishment began to focus on re-socialization of convicts. Not long ago, rehabilitation and conditional release have become characteristic for Canada’s penitentiary system. Nevertheless, current situation suggests that imprisonment in Canada (just like in most capitalist countries) has become a primary means of inflicting suffering on prisoners (Marron). In Canada, both federal and provincial governments are responsible for corrections. The Correctional Service of Canada is liable for prisoners serving sentences of two years or longer. The provinces deal with offenders sentenced to terms of less than two years. The Parole Board of Canada is responsible for making decisions on conditional release for federal and provincial (if a province does not have its own parole board) offenders (Correctional Service Canada). Recently, Canada has designed Law Reform Commission to improve its criminal, procedural, and penitentiary law. The Commission has already singled out a number of the most serious issues that cause concern. It was noted that the current situation in the country urgently requires that federal and provincial justices should significantly reduce the use of imprisonment and set adequate limits for this kind of punishment. According to the report of Law Reform Commission, Canada’s federal, provincial, and municipal jails annually increase for about 75 thousand people. More than four thousand people are imprisoned for non-violent offenses against property or public order every year. Less than 20% of offenders are incarcerated for acts of violence against a person. Moreover, about 50% of inmates serve their sentences for default in paying a fine. Every seventh offender, charged with non-violent crime, is subjected to detention (Correctional Service Canada).All these data hint at the difficulties facing Canadian society today. Such a large scale functioning of the penal system raises many social, economic, racial, and as a result political problems. Indeed, overcrowded prisons lead to significant expenditures, creating a heavy financial burden for taxpayers. Last year, the country spent over 4, 9 billion CAD on prison system. The majority of the money is going to the building of new prisons to hold the ever growing number of inmates. Other expenditures cover personnel salaries, costs of supplies, food, health care, and materials (Correctional Service Canada).Law Reform Commission argues that incarceration is very costly and not always effective sanction. This conclusion is based on the fact that prisoners serve their sentences in complete isolation. Few inmates have access to community service, general education, and vocational training. Isolation dooms prisoners to idleness. In Canada’s federal prisons, less than 17% of inmates are engaged …

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