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Canada to spend $105 million on prison expansions in anticipation of incarceration boom

Canada has allocated $105 million to build new prison cells at four existing prisons in anticipation of a drastic increase in prisoners over the next several years. The Canadian government's plan [National Post report] envisages the creation of 2,700 new spaces at the prisons within three years, in response to an expected 25 percent increase in the number of people incarcerated. According to a Correctional Service of Canada [official website] spokeswoman, the major catalyst [Ottawa Sun report] for the prisoner influx is the Truth in Sentencing Act [materials], which went into force in February 2010. The act amended Canada's Criminal Code [text; PDF], limiting the credit a judge may allow for any time spent in pre-sentencing custody in order to reduce the punishment to be imposed at sentencing.

Prison overcrowding was a problem in Canada even prior to adoption of the Truth in Sentencing Act. In June 2009 Canadian federal correctional investigator Howard Sapers [official profile] reported that the country's prison system was at full capacity [transcript, DOC; JURIST report] and was unable to handle many new prisoners without expanding. Overcrowded prisons have become a problem in other countries as well. In the US, federal judges tentatively ruled [JURIST report] in February that California must reduce its prison population to relieve overcrowding that resulted in inadequate mental and physical health care for inmates. The judges found that a release order was the only appropriate remedy [18 USC § 3626] for the unconstitutional prison conditions. In October, an Arizona federal court ruled [JURIST report] that overcrowded and unhygienic conditions in Maricopa County correctional facilities violated the inmates' constitutional rights, ordering the country sheriff to take appropriate steps to resolve the conditions. In 2007, the UK Ministry of Justice gave authority [JURIST report] to prison governors to grant early release to inmates to relieve overcrowded prisons throughout England and Wales.

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