After my initial press release questioning the cost-rationale for closing Kingston Penitentiary and the Regional Treatment Centre, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews responded in the Kingston Whig-Standard showing surprise at the numbers. Today in the Whig-Standard, I explained exactly where the numbers came from and once again asked him to release to taxpayers the real calculations behind closing these two correctional institutions. The following is a document trail:
May 9th, 2012
Ted Hsu, MP Press Release
For Immediate Release
Government report: Kingston correctional institutions amongst cheapest to operate and maintain
Kingston, Ontario, 9 May, 2012
The Public Safety Minister has more explaining to do. As part of my investigations into the announced closure of Kingston Penitentiary and Regional Treatment Centre, I went back to look at the government’s own report, ‘A Roadmap to Strengthening Public Security‘.
This report, commissioned by former Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day for the Correctional Service of Canada Review Panel, has been the government’s ‘roadmap’ for the last few years as it reconstructs the federal corrections system. There is no public document or study more recent on the CSC to indicate any changes in assessment from this 2007 document.
I discovered that in Appendix F, the report by Deloitte and Touche, Figure 4.5 shows that of the entire 14 maximum-security institutions, the third cheapest to operate and maintain, per inmate, is Kingston Penitentiary. The second cheapest is Regional Treatment Centre.
Yet the minister chose to close these two institutions over many others that cost taxpayers more money. If the the government’s purpose is really to save money, why not close the most expensive institutions?
This may be only one report, but it is the government’s own report and a significant driver of the majority government’s corrections policy.
Canadian taxpayers as well as the staff of Correctional Services Canada, whose jobs will be disrupted by the closures of Kingston Penitentiary and Regional Treatment Centre, deserve an explanation.
May 10, Page 1 of the Kingston Whig Standard
Report shows Kingston Penitentiary operating costs among best: MP
By Danielle VandenBrink/The Whig-Standard
Kingston and The Islands MP Ted Hsu is calling on the federal government to defend its decision to shutter the Kingston Penitentiary as a cost-cutting measure.
In a statement released Wednesday, Hsu cited a 2007 report by the Correctional Service of Canada Review Panel which shows of the country’s 14 maximum-security prisons, Kingston Penitentiary—and the psychiatric institution within its walls—are among the least expensive to operate.
The report, called ‘A Roadmap to Strengthening Public Security,’ said that based on the average operating and maintenance costs per offender for each institution, the Regional Treatment Centre, a 143-inmate psychiatric facility, and the Kingston Penitentiary, are only behind the Millhaven Institution when calculating operating and maintenance costs.
When the report was commissioned, the average operating and maintenance cost for each offender at the Regional Treatment Centre was approximately $14,000 a year, and $15,000 a year at the Kingston Penitentiary.
In comparison, the average cost to operate and maintain the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Saskatchewan was more than $55,000 per inmate a year.
The least expensive to run was Millhaven, which cost an average $6,000 to run and maintain each year.
“(The government is) trying to save $120 million a year,” Hsu said. “But if you’re trying to save money, why don’t you close the expensive to run institutions?”
Hsu said he wants the government to reconsider its decision to close the two Kingston institutions, and said he still believes there is an opportunity to speak out for constituents who oppose the closure.
“As far as I know they haven’t announced what their plan is for relocating the prison and the treatment centre,” Hsu said. “My impression is there’s time to complain and point out flaws in (the government’s) argument and hold them to account to what everything is going to cost.”
Public Safety Canada did not respond to a request for an interview by press time.
May 11, 2012
Vic Toews Response
May 15, 2012
Ted Hsu, MP Letter to the Editor
Mr. Toews, here’s where I got my facts
By Ted Hsu
I welcome Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ interest now in discussing the facts around the slated closure of Kingston Penitentiary and Regional Treatment Centre (“Ted Hsu needs to check his facts,” May 11).
Minister Toews wrote in the Whig-Standard that “Mr. Hsu … states that the cost of maintaining an offender at Kingston Penitentiary was merely $15,000.”
Actually, in my press release I did not quote any figures. I merely quoted a document from the Ministry of Public Safety, namely the 2007 “Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety,” commissioned by former Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day for the Correctional Service of Canada (CRC) Review Panel.
This independent panel report has been the Conservative government’s “roadmap” for the last few years as it reconstructs the federal corrections system. There is no public document or study more recent on the CSC to indicate any changes in assessment from this 2007 document. From the document, I drew attention to Figure 4.5 within Appendix F, a report by Deloitte & Touche.
Figure 4.5 contains the numbers mentioned in the original Whig-Standard article (“KP is cheap compared to others: Hsu,” May 10).
The graph shows the operating and maintenance costs per inmate of all of the maximum-security facilities. These are costs separate from salaries.
Minister Toews announced the closure of particular facilities, citing cost savings as the main reason. He also claimed that staff would find jobs elsewhere in the Corrections system, especially as there are new cells being built. So the operating and maintenance costs of the facilities, separate from salaries, is certainly a basis for discussion and analysis.
If you look at the graph, you will see that the operating and maintenance costs, per inmate, for Kingston Pen and Regional Treatment Centre are the second- and third-lowest out of 14 maximum-security institutions.
So that begs the question, why did the minister decide to close these cheapest-to-run facilities? If there is a calculation of the costs savings, could the minister let Canadian taxpayers and affected workers see it?
Now let’s consider another claim that Minister Toews made.
On April 24, Minister Toews clearly said in the House of Commons, in response to a direct question of mine about closing the three institutions (Kingston Pen, Regional Treatment Centre and Leclerc Institution), “I am advised by the department that the true net savings is $120 million a year.”
According to the Public Accounts of Canada 2011, the total annual budget of these three institutions was $112 million in fiscal year 2010-2011. I can see how Canada might save $120 million a year in future years by closing down these three institutions entirely. However taxpayers will still have to pay for holding the roughly 1,000 inmates somewhere else.
In his letter to the Whig-Standard, the minister said that “the annual cost to keep an offender behind bars is approximately $115,000.” Using the minister’s number and multiplying by 1,000 offenders would give an annual cost of $115 million. Even allowing for that number to be adjusted to reflect the fact that this number of 1,000 prisoners is approximate and that they are a mix of maximum- and medium-security inmates, how can the true net savings be anywhere near $120 million?
As the minister may know, with my background in science and finance I like to look at the numbers around any issue. I’m sure the minister also appreciates numbers. So I invite him to lay down his cards and show the true number of dollars saved to Canadian taxpayers and the workers in the institutions whose jobs and lives will be disrupted.
If you would like to comment on this topic:
Join the conversation on Facebook: www.facebook.com/TedHsuMP
Email a message: firstname.lastname@example.org, or to contact the Minister of Public Safety, please visit his website at: www.victoews.com
May 17, 2012
Vic Toews Second Response
I’d like to respond to Ted Hsu’s opinion column regarding our government’s efforts to reduce the deficit by closing prison space that is no longer necessary to keep Canadians safe (“Mr. Toews, here’s where I got my facts,” May 15).
Mr. Hsu says he likes to look at numbers. Here’s one for him: 2007. The report he cites as gospel is from five years ago. It also has incomplete information, citing only the operating and maintenance costs of various prisons. This does not take into account any capital costs or the costs of housing offenders.
Leclerc and Kingston Penitentiary are some of the most expensive facilities to run in the country. In fact, Kingston Penitentiary alone costs more than $52 million every year.
We are committed to ensuring that taxpayers’ money is spent appropriately and that we do not spend a single dollar on corrections that is not necessary to keep Canadians safe.
That is why we have taken steps to ensure we stop the revolving door of the justice system, stop the troubling Trudeau-era Liberal practice of putting the rights of criminals ahead of the principle of public safety, and ensure that offenders are actually held accountable for their actions.
While Ted Hsu and his Liberal colleagues may like to look back to 2007 as a better time for their political fortunes, our Conservative government will look forward to a future with a correctional system that actually corrects criminal behaviour.
Minister of Public Safety
Read my most recent response to Vic Toews’ letter here.