Last week Vic Toews, minister of public safety, announced that the Harper government intends to “restore balance” to the criminal justice system and increase “offender accountability,” by taking measures to reduce the amount of income prisoners can earn while incarcerated.
Before moving forward with the proposed wage restrictions, perhaps Toews and Prime Minister Stephen Harper should review the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), which states that prisoners retain all rights and privileges of Canadians except those that are necessarily removed as a consequence of one’s sentence. The current state of inmate pay violates the Canadian Labour Code and prisoners’ rights to fair and equitable wages. These provisions are consistent with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which states that prisoners shall not be used as labourers without equitable pay.
If that is not bad enough, prisoners’ ability to earn money to support their families and prepare them for release is already extremely limited, and this move by the Harper government will further impede the ability of the incarcerated to successfully reintegrate into the community.