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Canada’s Correctional Services Crisis

Lack of mental health training for correctional officers, overcrowding and poor treatment of individuals with mental health issues are the key issues identified in a recent report by the Public Services Foundation of Canada (PSFC), titled Crisis in Correctional Services.

The report was published last month and outlines the following key issues in the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia:

  • Overcrowding – federal and provincial correctional facilities are holding more inmates than they are designed to hold (two to three inmates are placed in a cell meant for one);
  • Mental health system of last resort – about half of the inmates have some level of mental health and/or addictions issues. With a lack of community-based mental health services, prisons are their last resort;
  • No intention to rehabilitate – there are limited programs or assistance within correctional institutions and individuals can leave the systems with exacerbated mental health and/or addictions issues;
  • Rising costs – even though crime rates are the lowest it has been since 1969, the cost of correctional services has grown by 47.9% since 2002-03 to $1.92 billion.

The PSFC broadly comments on how the “tough-on-crime” legislation has led to neglect with regards to providing appropriate care for those with mental health and addictions issues

The report is a first in a series that will explore the adult justice system in Canada. The PSFC broadly comments on how the “tough-on-crime” legislation has led to neglect with regards to providing appropriate care for those with mental health and addictions issues.

The paper advocates for evidence-based responses to crime, and outlining 15 recommendations, including the return of the Statistics Canada long-form census, additional data and reporting on provincial justice systems and more federally funded research on corrections.

To read the full report and all 15 recommendations, visit the Public Services Foundation website.