The costs of crime are usually measured in social or moral losses to a community or society in general. However, prosecuting and incarcerating criminals also costs the government, and therefore taxpayers, real dollar figures as well. This includes everything from police resources to court costs, prison meals, and corrections. The Fraser institute conducted a comprehensive study on the costs of crime in Canada, and here are some of the results.
Estimates of the total cost
The total cost of crime as estimated by The Fraser Institute is over $85 billion dollars per year. Some of the factors that are included in the costs are:
- Victim’s losses – perhaps the most difficult to calculate, victim’s losses include damages to property and hospital costs.
- Prosecution costs – this includes not only how much time is spent prosecuting but also the cost of defense attorneys if needed.
- Costs of jail time – the average male prisoner costs over $100,000 a year to incarcerate.
- Policing – policing costs have risen drastically in recent times despite a 27% overall drop in crime. The cost per capita is now over $300 for Canada’s police forces.
- Rehabilitation – everything from drug rehabilitation to house arrest and parole officers is figured in to this cost.
Aside from these, there are still other smaller factors that add in to the total. This figure is double that of the figure in 1998, which doesn’t seem to coincide with the drop in the crime rate.
Cost per criminal
The severity of the crime and length of the sentence obviously affect the cost of incarceration, but according to the Canadian government, the average cost of a male prisoner is $100,000 a year, which is nearly double of what it costs to house a female prisoner. The cost of the prison system rose 86% between 2006 and 2011, and by 2014 it had grown to nearly double what it was in 2006. Over $3.1 billion is spent in total. More staff and high incarceration rates in some provinces have led to staggering increases in budgets.
Costs per capita for taxpayers
Between policing, court costs, and corrections, the cost per capita for Canadians is $583 according to the most recent reports. Estimates for policing were $330, corrections $137 and courts $116 respectively, meaning that the brunt of this cost comes from the rising price tag on police salaries and the increasing costs of equipment and bureaucracy.
Changes in the future
The new government has promised to look at controversial mandatory minimums that have led to an increased rate of incarceration. Whereas the previous government took a tough-on-crime stance that put more criminals behind bars, new points of view are calling for a focus on rehabilitation rather than imprisonment. With many pieces of crime legislation being struck down by the Supreme Court, it seems as though a new approach is taking hold. In the meantime, the cost of the crime in Canada continues to rise.
For Canadians who are living with a criminal record, applying for a Canadian pardon can help with a successful productive re-integration into society.