OTTAWA — Canada is studying the use of private companies to deliver some prison services as it cuts spending and imposes tougher sentences on criminals.
Correctional Service Canada, which oversees federal prisons, “may consider” partnerships with private firms to provide “basic institutional services such as cleaning and food preparation,” said a memo prepared for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews in advance of a May meeting with Crispin Blunt, British Minister of State for Prisons in London.
Officials in the department urged Toews to discuss Canada’s “interest in considering the privatization of penitentiary services on a limited basis,” according to the memo obtained by Bloomberg News under Canada’s freedom-of-information law.
Public Safety officials were lobbied by the GEO Group, of Boca Raton, Fla., as the government was preparing legislation to introduce or lengthen mandatory sentences for some types of crime.
The annual budget of Correctional Service Canada, which reports to Toews, will fall to the equivalent of $2.81 billion by the year beginning April 2014, from approximately $3 billion in the current fiscal year, according to agency planning documents.
The new law will “invariably lead to more people behind bars serving longer sentences,” compounding capacity challenges federal prisons already face, Canada’s Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers told a parliamentary committee in November.
“We have no appetite to pursue fully privatized prisons,” said Julie Carmichael, a spokeswoman for Toews. The government “has no intention of building new prisons, nor have we built a single new prison to date,” she said in an email.