As Canada shutters old prisons, its penal system is stretched to capacity

Photo by Kevin Van Paassen/Globe and Mail

Thursday, May 10, 2012 – Globe and Mail

Inmates in Canada’s federal prisons have been sleeping in trailers, interview rooms, family visiting spaces and gymnasiums, while the percentage of prisoners sharing cells built for one has nearly doubled in under three years, according to documents obtained by The Globe and Mail.

The documents, obtained from access to information requests, suggest a penal system stretched to capacity. Canada’s prison population has been rising since 2005 after years of steady decline, growing 7 per cent between March 31, 2011 and May 1, 2012.

Part of the latest increase can be attributed to the government’s tough-on-crime agenda. At the same time, the government will lose 1,000 beds after it closes aging penal facilities such as Kingston Penitentiary and Leclerc Institution in Laval, Que., but says it will more than make up the difference with new units.

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Watchdog says prison violence is on the rise; Toews says it’s decreased


Tuesday, August 9, 2011 – Globe and Mail

Canada’s federal prisons are getting more crowded, more tense and more polarized between young and old inmates – and that’s contributing to an increase in violence and deaths behind bars, says Ottawa’s prison watchdog.

As new rules send more people to prison for longer periods of time, correctional investigator Howard Sapers argues, it’s putting a greater strain not only on Canada’s aging prison infrastructure but also on its inmates.

“The indicators that we look at in terms of getting a measure of institutional violence are all going in the same direction,” Mr. Sapers said. “And they’re all going up.”

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews argues that’s not so.

“I haven’t seen that statistic,” he said. “There isn’t as much prisoner-on-prisoner violence that used to exist eight or nine years ago, before we put in policies that restricted some of the movement of prisoners.”

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