KINGSTON, Ont. - Four inmates from Collins Bay Institution are suing the federal government in an attempt to overturn last October’s decision to cut inmate pay by 30%.
The inmate pay scale was established in 1981 in response to the MacGuigan Report. It was based on the then-minimum wage and the assumption that the average person uses 85% of their wage for essentials such as food, accommodation and clothing. Inmates received a maximum of $6.90 a day under the original scale -- 15% of the minimum wage -- but more typically just $3 a day.
In October, Correctional Service Canada (CSC) decided to reduce the amount paid by another 30% -- 22% covers food and accommodation and 8% goes to telephone fees, which inmates already pay when making calls. Inmates receiving a daily stipend between $5.25 and $6.90 lost between $1.58 and $2.08 a day when the cuts kicked in.
The pay compensates them for prison work, such as jobs within the institutions like working in the kitchen or cleaning the hallways, or work done for CORCAN, a prison work program that employs inmates in textiles, manufacturing, construction and services. CORCAN work used to include incentive pay of a maximum of $2 per day, which was also eliminated in the pay cuts. Before prison farms were closed in 2010, they were included in paid work.
Todd Sloan, the lawyer representing the inmates, said the reduction of the pay scale exacerbates an already-unfair system.
“It interferes with inmates’ ability to maintain contact with families and to provide some assistance with them while they’re in prison,” he said. “It interferes with their ability to go and to investigate and to speak about reasonable reintegration prospects when they’re about to be released.”