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Bill C-10 would increase cost per offender by 16 times: PBO

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has released a new report estimating the costs of implementing Bill C-10. It says that if the bill had been in force in 2008-2009, the average cost per offender would have increased from $2,600 to about $41,000. This would have added $8 million to federal costs and $137 million to provincial and territorial costs.

The report, published on February 28, is titled "The Fiscal Impact of Changes to Eligibility got Conditional Sentences of Imprisonment in Canada."

The "Key Messages and Highlights" section of the report says (bolding and italics in the original):

PBO analysis is based on a simple model (involving no behavioural changes) asking: What would the fiscal impact of the changes to eligibility for CSIs be had Bill C-10 been in force in 2008-2009?

PBO analysis indicates that as a consequence of the change:

1. approx. 4,500 offenders would no longer be eligible for a CSI and, as such, face the threat of a prison sentence;

2. 650 of that 4,500 will be acquitted, meaning fewer offenders under correctional supervision;

3. offenders who are punished will, on average, be under supervision for a shorter amount of time (225 days instead of 348 days); and

4. the average cost per offender will rise significantly, from approx. $2,600 to approx. $41,000—representing about a 16 fold increase.

The highlights section goes on to say:

As a result, the PBO estimates that:

• The federal government would bear additional costs of about $8 million, reflecting the cost of increases in parole reviews by the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) and criminal prosecutions by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC).

The government indicated no additional federal costs.

•The provincial and territorial governments would bear additional costs totalling about $137 million, reflecting the cost of increases in criminal prosecutions (except in the territories), court cases, incarceration, and parole reviews (in the case of Ontario and Québec).

The government has not indicated additional provincial and territorial government costs.

It should also be noted:

•PBO figures are based on two key assumptions:

1. 50% of offenders who pled guilty for a CSI will opt for trial.

2. Offenders who opt for trial may be acquitted.

•PBO analysis is primarily based on:

1. data obtained from Statistics Canada;

2. correctional data obtained from some provinces;

3. average costs of prosecution obtained from the PPSC; and

4. data obtained from Department of Justice reports and government documents provided to parliamentary committees.

PBO figures are likely underestimates. While they include no behavioural impacts, they also include no additional capital costs related to the building of new prisons.

The report was peer reviewed by a number of British, American and Canadian experts, including Simon Fraser University criminology professor Dr. Paul Brantingham.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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