ARCHIVED - Speaking Notes for the Honourable Vic Toews At an announcement related to offender accountability

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Ottawa, Ontario
May 9, 2012

Check against delivery

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming.

As Minister of Public Safety, I am committed to ensuring that the safety and security of law-abiding Canadians comes first while criminals are held fully accountable for their actions.

In fact, this is one of the greatest responsibilities entrusted to a government.

All too often, victims have told us they feel the criminals have all the rights. We've listened. And since taking office our Government has been working hard to restore balance to our criminal justice system.

The measures I am announcing today represent additional, tangible steps we are taking to deliver on our responsibility.

Specifically, I'm announcing five new measures.

First, we will be increasing offenders' accountability for covering the costs related to their incarceration by charging them more for room and board.

As it stands currently, there are six stipend – or inmate pay – levels, from which inmates pay room and board.

They range from level one – which is $1 per day to a maximum of $10 every two weeks – to level six, which is $6.90 per day to a maximum of $69 every two weeks.

Now why are inmates receiving a stipend or pay at all, you may be wondering.

It is long-standing CSC policy to provide limited remuneration to inmates who participate in programs, including employment, as identified in their correctional plan.

It's meant to ensure inmates assume some responsibility for their expenses, such as room and board, and support to family on the outside, such as childcare costs.

Additionally, gaining employment skills while incarcerated provides offenders with an increased marketable skill set upon release, which also increases the likelihood of safe reintegration.

Starting next year (2013-14), all inmates at stipend levels 3 through 6 -- 6 being the top -- will automatically start contributing about 30% of their stipend towards room and board.

In dollar figures, this means between $1.58 and $2.08 per day for the cost of accommodation, food, and utilities, for example.

This is reflective of the fact that the average Canadian pays about one third (or 32%) of his or her income towards housing costs.

Second, we are making changes to the Inmate Telephone System.

Managing the inmate telephone system is costly.

CSC staff are required to breakdown the costs associated with each inmate's phone usage when the monthly invoice arrives and recoup those costs.

As you can imagine, this requires substantial time and effort on behalf of CSC staff.

We intend to ensure that these administrative costs are charged to the inmate population.

You use it – you pay for it!

Thirdly, we are eliminating incentive pay, which is currently being provided to inmates who work in CORCAN facilities.
CORCAN operates in 31 institutions across Canada, in four business lines:  textiles, manufacturing, construction, and services (such as printing and laundry).

CORCAN shops provide a realistic business environment, producing products and services to private sector norms and standards.

In addition to teaching inmates marketable skills, CORCAN also provides the opportunity to observe offenders in a "real-world" work environment and assess how well other programs like anger management and substance abuse are working.

Given the demand for participation in CORCAN shops, there is no need – or reason -- to provide so-called ‘incentive pay.' 

Finally, we are reducing the burden on institutional staff and increasing the accountability of inmates when it comes to the purchasing of inmate items.

We will do this in two ways.

First, we are transferring ownership and accountability for all institutional canteens to Inmate Committees.

Canteens within federal institutions sell things like toothpaste, books, clothing that goes beyond standard issue and snacks such as candy bars.

The process of converting control for these canteens to inmate committees started a few years ago. Right now, over 85 percent of prison canteens have been converted. This measure will see the remaining 15 percent converted.

Converting these canteens is not only beneficial from a cost savings perspective, but also promotes greater offender accountability and provides offender employment opportunities.

Rest assured, CSC will retain supervision of transactions to ensure rigorous and thorough oversight.

The second way we are reducing the burden on CSC staff – and taxpayers – is when it comes to the purchasing of inmate goods from outside suppliers.

Right now, if an inmate needs a product that is not in stock or available at the inmate canteen, they fill out a request, and a staff member goes to a store to buy it for them.

Many times, the result is one-off trips to go purchase these items.

Institutional staff are not personal shoppers.  They deserve the opportunity to focus on the very important jobs we have entrusted them to do inside the walls of the institution.

Moving forward, CSC will standardize the way inmates can purchase goods – goods that are purchased with the inmate's own money I should add.

From now on, to be more efficient and ensure the best use of taxpayer dollars, staff will visit a set list of stores on a set schedule, so they are not making several small trips each time they get a request.  There will also be the option of ordering from a catalogue.


In conclusion, let me wrap up by saying that last May, Canadians gave our Government a strong mandate to improve public safety where we live, work and raise our families.

Among our commitments, we promised Canadians we would introduce and pass law and order legislation to combat terrorism and crime.

We promised to do this within 100 sitting days.   And we delivered.

Victims have told us that too often they feel the criminals have all the rights.

We listened.  And we've been seeking to restore balance.

Just three weeks ago, the Prime Minister announced a new income support program for parents of victims of crime.

And Minister Nicholson recently introduced legislation to double the victim surcharge offenders must pay, while ensuring it is automatically applied in all cases.

Our Government has made it a priority to make the changes Canadians have asked for – and that they deserve.

All of these measures build on our record of holding criminals to account and putting the rights of victims and law-abiding Canadians first.

Our measures, including those I've announced today, seek to restore balance to our criminal justice system.

They provide tangible steps forward.

And while inmate pay and room and board are not in and of themselves, the complete answer -- they are tangible steps forward to hold criminals to account.  And all told, these measures will save taxpayers over $10 million.

Thank you.

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