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Spending on criminal justice soars while crime rates fall: report

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Ottawa’s tough-on-crime stance is costing the taxpayer a whole lot more than we ever bargained for, a Manitoba social agency says.

Commenting on a new Parliamentary budget study out today, the John Howard Society says the worst predictions it made back when the Harper government was loading anti-crime bills into the Commons are now coming home to roost. And it’s the taxpayer who’s stuck with the bill.

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The new study says spending on criminal justice climbed 23 per cent over the last decade, just as crime rates fell 23 per cent.

The report, a first of its kind, took a comprehensive look at criminal justice costs over time, put the price tag at $20.3 billion in 2011-2012.

"The report shows that spending on criminal justice increased 23 per cent while crime continued to fall," noted the Manitoba John Howard Society in a statement today.

The Society, which advocates on behalf of inmates and criminal justice issues, identified the tough on crime stance as courting hidden costs to taxpayers a year ago.

The group's Manitoba executive director John Hutton said the vindication is bitter sweet because the report bears out every warning the society made when Bill-C-10, was working its way through Parliament. The mandatory-minimum laws were enacted in October, further crowding overburdened provincial jails, he said.

"They hoodwinked us," Hutton said.

The report shows that 75 per cent of the costs of the new federal crime bills are being off-loaded onto the provinces. Provincial incarceration rates were also on the rise, while federal rates actually fell, the report said. That was a political sleight-of-hand that allowed the federal government to conceal the bulk of costs to taxpayers, he added.

"It’s important information because it’s the taxpayer who pays and the federal government was hiding 75 per cent of the cost. They weren’t talking about these costs, to the provinces. They were only talking about 25 per cent of the costs, to them. They were able to hide 75 per cent of the costs," Hutton said.

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Updated on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 7:52 PM CDT: fixes last sentence to say "75 per cent of the costs"

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