Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Canada Studying Private Firms for Prisons

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Canada Studying Private Firms for Prisons

Article excerpt

OTTAWA -- Canada is studying the use of private companies to deliver some prison services as it cuts spending and imposes tougher sentences on criminals, which may benefit companies like GEO Group Inc.

Correctional Service Canada, which oversees federal prisons, "may consider" partnerships with private firms to provide "basic institutional services such as cleaning and food preparation," says a memo prepared for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews in advance of a May 14 meeting with Crispin Blunt, British Minister of State for Prisons in London.

Officials in the department urged Mr. 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 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 Mr. Toews, will fall to C$2.86 billion ($2.81 billion) by the year beginning April 2014 from C$3.03 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 Mr. 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.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has pledged to eliminate the federal deficit by the year starting April 2015, partly by reducing annual program spending by C$5.2 billion. Mr. Toews said April 19 the government would save C$120 million per year by closing two federal prisons, including the maximum-security Kingston Penitentiary in Ontario.

GEO Group's revenue has almost tripled over the last decade to $1.66 billion last year as it expanded the number of facilities it owns or manages. …

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