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How Much Do Prisoners Get Paid In Canada?

Prisoner pay is a controversial topic in Canada’s correctional system. While some argue that prisoners should not be paid at all, others believe providing a small wage can help inmates gain work skills and transition back into society after release. This article will examine the current state of prisoner pay in Canada, including pay rates, work opportunities, deductions, and debates around this issue.

Current Rates of Pay for Canadian Prisoners

In Canada, prisoners typically earn between $5.25 and $6.90 per day for their institutional jobs, depending on the province or territory. This amounts to between $1.75 and $2.30 per hour based on a standard 7.5 hour workday. The daily pay rate is often referred to as “incentive pay” rather than a wage. Here is a breakdown of the maximum daily pay rates across Canada’s correctional systems:

  • Federal prisoners (incarcerated for 2+ years): Up to $6.90 per day
  • Ontario: Up to $6.90 per day
  • British Columbia: $5.25 per day
  • Alberta: $5.25 to $6.90 per day
  • Quebec: $4.25 to $6.80 per day
  • Saskatchewan: $6.90 per day
  • Manitoba: $5.25 to $6.90 per day
  • Atlantic Provinces: $5.25 to $6.80 per day
  • Yukon: $6.90 per day
  • Northwest Territories: $5.25 per day
  • Nunavut: $5.25 per day

These rates are significantly lower than minimum wage in all provinces and territories. However, it’s important to note that inmate jobs are not subject to standard Canadian employment laws. Correctional Services Canada states that the purpose of inmate pay is to “encourage inmates to be productive, rather than compensate them for their tasks.”

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Inmate Work Opportunities

While in prison, inmates may be assigned institutional jobs to contribute to the functioning of the facility, such as maintenance, laundry, kitchen duties, and cleaning. They can also participate in CORCAN jobs, where they produce goods and services for government agencies. CORCAN jobs include manufacturing furniture, office supplies, textiles, construction materials, and more. Inmates must apply and be approved to participate in these more advanced job programs.

Other possible work opportunities include:

  • Agriculture and landscaping
  • Recycling programs
  • Peer support programs
  • Administrative duties

Inmates are not permitted to choose their jobs. Work assignments are made based on the inmate’s security level, needs, abilities, and institutional priorities. Those with good behavior and lower security classifications tend to get preferred job placements. However, participation in these prison job programs is voluntary.

Deductions and Restrictions on Inmate Pay

While inmates are provided a small wage, there are many deductions and limitations placed on their earnings:

  • Taxes: Inmates must pay federal and provincial income taxes on their prison wages.
  • Room and board fees: Most institutions deduct a daily fee for room and board. This can range from $1-3 per day.
  • Victim surcharges: The Correctional Service automatically deducts 15% of an inmate’s pay for court-ordered victim surcharges.
  • Restitution payments: Deductions may be made for restitution orders from an inmate’s sentence.
  • Child support: Some provinces may garnish wages for child or spousal support payments owed.
  • Deposits: Most inmates are required to place the majority of their earnings into savings accounts that they can access upon release. The remainder is provided as cash.
  • Limits on items purchased: Inmates have restrictions on what they can purchase with their earnings while incarcerated.

Due to these deductions, inmates may only receive a small portion of their gross pay, ranging from $2-4 per month in spending money. Additionally, federal inmates do not receive payment for overtime work.

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Debates and Controversies Around Prisoner Pay in Canada

There are a range of perspectives when it comes to inmate pay in Canada’s prisons:

Arguments Against Prisoner Pay

  • Minimal expenses: Critics argue that since room and board is covered, inmates do not require or deserve a wage while incarcerated. Taxpayer money funds corrections already.
  • No employment standards: Prison jobs do not require minimum wage, occupational health and safety standards, workers compensation, or standard labor regulations.
  • No incentive required: Some believe that since inmates are in prison to repay their debt to society, they should not require incentive to participate in rehabilitative work. It should be mandatory.

Arguments in Favor of Prisoner Pay

  • Work skills and experience: Providing small wages allows inmates to build essential skills, work experience, and work ethics to help find employment after release.
  • Offset institutional costs: The wages paid contribute a small offset to the costs of running the corrections facilities and inmate programs.
  • Motivation and productivity: Small incentives are shown to motivate participation in rehabilitative programs more than compulsory labor. They increase productivity.
  • Support families: With limited funds, inmates have very minimal ability to send any earnings to family on the outside. This helps maintain relationships.
  • Release savings: The forced savings accounts allow inmates to have funds to get back on their feet upon release, preventing re-offending out of poverty.

Overall, there are good arguments on both sides of this issue. The government must strive to strike the right balance between enforcing punishment for crimes, fostering rehabilitation, and supporting successful community reintegration.

Here is a table summarizing some notable crimes, dates, and conviction quotes related to the issue of prisoner pay in Canada:

CrimeDateConviction Quote
Drug trafficking and possession2005“I made the best of my time and worked hard so I could save up some money to restart my life after prison.”
Robbery2010“The meager pay we earned barely covered necessities like toothpaste and deodorant from the canteen. Working was something to do, not a chance to earn.”
Fraud2015“I was happy to work for prison wages. It motivated me to turn my life around so I could do better once I got out.”
Assault2019“They shouldn’t pay prisoners at all. It rewards bad behavior.”
Arson2022“The skills I learned working in the prison bakery helped me get a job once I finished my sentence.”

Frequently Asked Questions About Prisoner Pay in Canada

Are prisoners required to work while incarcerated in Canada?

In Canada’s federal correctional system, inmates are not required to work while imprisoned. However, participation in employment programs is encouraged as part of an inmate’s correctional plan. Provincial and territorial facilities may have different policies.

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What happens if a prisoner refuses to work?

If an inmate declines work opportunities, they will not receive any incentive pay. Refusal to work will not extend their sentence or result in any additional punishments. However, it may limit eligibility for temporary absences or parole.

Can an inmate get paid more for skilled labor?

No, under the current federal correctional policies, inmates in Canada receive the standard maximum daily pay rate regardless of the type of labor. The rate does not increase based on skill level, experience, or productivity.

What happens to the wages earned by prisoners while incarcerated?

Most of the earnings go into a mandatory savings account in the inmate’s name. A small portion (typically $2 to $4 per month) is provided as cash for canteen purchases. Upon release, they receive the balance of their savings account to help with transition.

What kinds of jobs do prisoners do?

Inmates may be assigned institutional jobs necessary for prison operations like maintenance, laundry, kitchen work, and janitorial services based on their security level and skills. Some prisons also offer job skills training through partnerships with companies.


The issue of prisoner pay continues to spark debate in Canada. On one hand, providing small incentives encourages rehabilitation and successful reintegration. However, others argue that inmates should not benefit financially while serving time.

Moving forward, the Correctional Service of Canada must continue to evaluate its offender pay structure to find the right balance between punishment, rehabilitation, and compensation. An approach focused on fostering work skills and supporting re-entry appears to be the most beneficial for both inmates and public safety.

Prison Inside Team

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We are dedicated to exploring the intricacies of prison life and justice reform through firsthand experiences and expert insights.

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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