The Federal Cost of Minimum Sentences

Published: March 30, 2022
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Abstract

Minimum sentences require judges to impose a minimum penalty on persons convicted of a specific crime. Minimum sentences can result in judges issuing longer sentences. The issuance of longer sentences results in more inmates in federal custody which, in turn, increases the costs incurred by the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC).

This report focuses on the minimum sentence for “Possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition”. Persons convicted of “Possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition” in each year continue to be sentenced to a total of 1,162 more years in federal custody than they were before the minimum was increased. The total cost associated with the additional 684 persons in custody and 467 persons on parole at a given point in time as a result of this minimum sentence is estimated to be $98 million/year. The effect of this minimum sentence persists despite the minimum sentence having been declared null and void by the courts.

It is difficult to draw conclusions about the impact of other minimum sentences. It is also unclear, what effect, if any, the repeal of a minimum sentence would have on the severity of sentencing.

Highlights

  • Persons convicted of “Possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition” in each year continue to be sentenced to a total of 1,162 more years in federal custody than they were before the minimum sentence was increased. The total cost associated with the additional 684 persons in custody and 467 persons on parole at a given point in time as a result of this minimum sentence is estimated to be $98 million each year.

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