Prison: detainees cost us more than ever

The costs of incarcerating an offender reach nearly $ 95,000 a year

Inmates are costing taxpayers more than ever because of new construction, according to the Department of Public Safety. Built for nearly $ 91 million, the Sept-Îles prison opened last year with state-of-the-art equipment.

An inmate in a provincial jail costs taxpayers an average of $ 259 a day, a 54% increase for 10 years.

In 2008-2009, each inmate spent $ 61,320 a year on the state. Today, the bill is $ 94,535 to keep an offender behind bars for a year. The Ministry of Public Security attributes this jump to the rising cost of rent and the wage bill.

“The increase is enormous and it is the Department [Public Security] to justify to Quebec taxpayers why it is worth it,” claims the Canadian spokesman for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Renaud Brossard.

According to the ministry, the average cost of $ 259 per day is divided as follows: wages represent 62% of the amount and operating costs fill the remaining 38%.

“Because of the new detention facilities, the total cost of rent … has increased in 2017-2018 totaling nearly $ 25 million,” said spokesman Olivier Cantin by email.

New prisons were built in Roberval and Sept-Îles.

Plasma TVs

Moreover, the state-of-the-art equipment of the new Sept-Îles jail, which cost nearly $ 91 million, was startling last year. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation called “aberration” high-end stainless steel appliances and plasma televisions.

Documents released by the ministry also show an explosion of overtime. In 2016-17, more than 500,000 overtime hours cost more than $ 24 million, almost $ 10 million more than in 2008-2009.

The average salary for a correctional officer today is almost $ 62,000.

According to ministry documents, the meal budget is increasing, even though the number of meals is decreasing. The average cost of a meal is $ 3.43.

Fewer detainees

Olivier Cantin also argues that “the decrease in the average daily population in detention facilities also contributes to the increase in average costs per day per prisoner”.

Last year there were about 200 fewer inmates in prisons than the year before.

“We have built new correctional facilities that we probably did not need,” said Université Laval professor Isabelle Fortin-Dufour, who specializes in the social reintegration of offenders.

“We have prisons in which we hold people for very short periods of time, at astronomical costs, knowing full well that it is money thrown out the window,” denounces the criminologist Jean-Claude Bernheim.

While there are various rehabilitation and reintegration programs for inmates, few offenders benefit.

“We do not have the time, within six months, it’s impossible, it’s a dream of Cinderella,” says Ms. Fortin-Dufour.

Sentences in Quebec institutions are two years less a day or shorter. Longer sentences are served in federal penitentiaries.

For both experts, the solution lies in the sentences served in the community, both to improve the rehabilitation of inmates and to ease the burden of taxpayers.

Average daily cost of an inmate in Quebec

  • 2017-2018: $ 259
  • 2015-2016: $ 222
  • 2013-2014: $ 193
  • 2011-2012: $ 202
  • 2009-2010: $ 173
  • 2008-2009: $ 168

This cost includes staff remuneration, operation (food, travel, vehicles, etc.), rents, etc.

Average prison population

  • 2017-2018: 4845
  • 2016-2017: 5029

Meal costs

  • 2016-2017: 7,007,680 meals served costing $ 22,847,238
  • 2014-2015: 7,065,083 meals served costing $ 21,801,824


  • 2016-2017: 579,994 hours costing $ 24,597,509
  • 2008-2009: 469,496 hours costing $ 15,043,282

Source: Ministry of Public Security

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