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Annual cost of prison isolation units to be $2.8 million each, budget officer says


OTTAWA — A new analysis by the parliamentary budget officer says the annual cost of units for keeping federal prisoners apart from the general jail population will be $2.8 million apiece by 2026-27.

In response to criticism of solitary confinement, the government created "structured intervention units" for prisoners requiring isolation to allow better access to programming and mental-health care. 

Prisoners transferred to the units are supposed to be allowed out of their cells for at least four hours each day, with two hours engaged in "meaningful human contact."

The Correctional Service has put in place 15 units, 10 for men and five for women, and could need as many as 32 across the country.

The report says if no new units are created, the annual cost of operating them would be $42 million by 2026-27, and if 32 units are in place, the annual price tag is pegged at $91 million.

Under both scenarios, the budget officer estimates each unit will entail costs of $2.8 million in 2026-27.

According to the Correctional Service, personnel known as independent external decision makers review prisoners' cases on an ongoing basis, and provide binding recommendations related to their conditions and length of confinement.

The budget officer's report says the cost analysis considers the number of additional full-time employees required, the number of independent external decision maker positions available, infrastructure costs and the amount spent on chaplaincy services.

A study released in May by academic experts said the reviews of prisoners' cases were "not adequate," and it pointed to a lack of information about the nature of the information used by the decision makers, the logic behind their findings and the timing of the implementation of their decisions. 

The study was prepared by criminologists Anthony Doob and Jane Sprott and law professor Adelina Iftene using data provided by the Correctional Service.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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