To that end, committee chair Senator Jim Munson and Senators Kim Pate, Marilou McPhedran and Nancy Hartling were granted rare access to some of Canada’s most secure penitentiaries during a fact-finding mission to the Brockville, Kingston and Montreal areas.
The average, ordinary, everyday life of prisoners is a dreary parade of petty indignities, the committee heard.
At Joliette women’s prison near Montreal — where the majority of women have histories of physical and sexual abuse, the only available work is sewing underwear for men held in other federal institutions.
Payment, as with all federal prison jobs, tops out at $6.90 per day.
The money is supposed to help prisoners develop a small amount of savings that they can use to help them build a life on the outside.
But the federal government claws back 30% to contribute toward for room and board, and to defray administrative expenses like phone services, even though prisoners must pay for each phone call they make.
And in practice, a lot of this money goes right back to the prison via the canteen — small tuck shops where prisoners can by things like pharmacy items and food.