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Most of Canada's dangerous offenders housed in medium- and minimum-security prisons

Most of the 700-plus offenders deemed as the most dangerous in Canada are housed in medium- and minimum-security prisons, federal statistics show
Federal statistics show most of Canada's more than 700 dangerous offenders are housed in medium and minimum security prisons. A correctional officer enters the gate at Millhaven Institution in Bath, Ontario, on Wednesday Oct. 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

OTTAWA — Most of the 700-plus offenders deemed as the most dangerous in Canada are housed in medium- and minimum-security prisons, federal statistics show. 

The data were tabled in Parliament in response to a written question from Frank Caputo, a Conservative member of Parliament from British Columbia. 

The numbers say that as of the 2022-23 fiscal year, 580 of the dangerous offenders the correctional service has in its custody are classified as needing medium-security lodgings, and only 99 are reported as having a maximum-security classification 

Another 57 offenders were reported as having a minimum-security level. 

The Conservative querycame after news broke that notorious serial killer and rapist Paul Bernardo had been transferred to a medium-security prison in Quebec from his maximum-security lodgings at Ontario's Millhaven Institution. 

The Correctional Service of Canada reviewed its decision following widespread public backlash and concluded that officials followed the proper policy in moving Bernardo. He is serving an indeterminate life sentence and has been declared a dangerous offenderfor his multiple violent crimes. 

Prison system commissioner Anne Kelly has said Bernardo does not pose a public-safety risk and the conditions in medium security are similar to — and no more luxurious than — those in maximum security. 

The review also revealed that Bernardo, who was arrested and first sent to prison in the mid-1990s, had already met the requirements to be reclassified as a medium-security prisoner for years — but because he had never fully integrated with other inmates, was always kept in maximum-security. 

That changed earlier this year, the review found, when prison officials saw fit to transfer him after he had integrated with other offenders without issue.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has called on the Liberal government to intervene and ensure that Bernardo and other dangerous offenders are forced to serve out their entire sentences in maximum security.

Poilievre is pushing a private member's bill tabled by Tony Baldinelli, a Tory MP who hails from the region where Bernardo committed his crimes.

The legislation proposes that any inmate found to be a dangerous offender as stipulated by the Criminal Code, or who has been convicted of more than one first-degree murder, should be classified as maximum-security and serve their sentence in prisons labelled as such.

The Liberals have pushed back on intervening in the matter, stating that the operational decisions of the prison system are made independent of government, and that it is risky to cross that line.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2023.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press


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