Housing an inmate in Nunavut costs 3 times national average

New data reveals that it costs $206,590 to incarcerate one inmate in Nunavut for one year, compared to the Canadian average of $71,540. 'It costs a lot more to do anything in Nunavut,' says Justice Minister Paul Okalik.

It costs $206,590 to house one inmate for one year, compared to Canadian average of $71,540

Baffin Correctional Centre director of corrections JP Deroy checks out a cell to be renovated in April 2015. New data reveals that the cost to house an inmate in Nunavut is nearly three times the national average. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

The cost to house an inmate in Nunavut is nearly three times the national average.

New data from a CBC analysis shows the price tag to incarcerate one inmate for one year is $206,590, compared to the Canadian average of $71,540.

In Yukon, it costs $129,940 to house each inmate in jail for one year; in the Northwest Territories it costs $102,200 per inmate.

"It costs a lot more to do anything in Nunavut," says Justice Minister Paul Okalik.

"That's the cost of doing business in our territory and housing inmates is no different."

While Nunavut's per capita incarceration rate is nearly seven times the national average, the total inmate population is quite small.

Okalik says it's the high cost of food, labour and transportation that adds up.

50% of prisoners not convicted 

The data also shows that about half the inmates housed in Nunavut jails are not serving sentences.

Over the last five years, about 50 per cent of the territory's jails have been filled with prisoners on remand – meaning they are awaiting trials, bail hearings, or sentencing and have not necessarily been found guilty of a crime.

"It's a real problem," says James Morton, a Nunavut defence lawyer.

"People on remand should not be on remand terribly long, and there should be less people on remand than are serving time as convicted criminals."

Officials at the Department of Justice say they're looking at alternatives to decrease the territory's number of inmates.

Okalik says over the next year, the territorial government and the federal government are set to spend $500,000 on crime-prevention programs to keep people out of jail — less than the cost of housing three inmates for a year.

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