TORONTO - It's back to basic cable for Ontario's inmates.
Some 6,000 people serving time in 20 of the province's 32 jails have been getting access to "enhanced cable services" for some time but that will now end, Community Safety and Corrections Minister Jim Bradley said Tuesday.
"We're looking to find every possible way we can to find savings," Bradley said, noting the extra channels have been provided to inmates "for some time" and under several governments.
The savings would be minimal but still significant, Bradley said.
But the opposition Progressive Conservatives say Bradley's sudden announcement was prompted not by savings but by a PC access to information request which the party had filed months ago but just received hours after the minister talked to reporters.
"When they found we had the information, like in so many other cases, they reacted to our work," Tory MPP Garfield Dunlop said. "They obviously didn't want to look bad. However - they do look bad, because once again they got caught."
The PC information request turned up cable bills from several provincial institutions in the thousands of dollars.
For example, the Toronto Metro West Detention Centre was billed $6,135 in August 2009 for its package, which includes such channels as MuchMusic, Country Music Television and Bravo.
And the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in London was billed $8,107 in April 2009. The centre's "ultimate" cable package included Outdoor Life, Comedy, the Family Channel and the Golf Channel.
The total cost of providing the enhanced services at the 20 institutions where they have been available is $73,000 a year, ministry officials say.
Cutting that back to basic cable only will only save a portion of that bill, they said, adding none of the channels inmates accessed were pornographic.