Skip to content

The challenge

The estimated number of people released from incarceration into the GTA each year.

The portion of people who have no stable place to stay when they leave prison.

The portion of provincial (and 44% of federal) inmates who reoffend in their first year after release.

Housing, jobs and positive social connections are critical to successfully re-entering society. Unfortunately people often leave prison with little money, no job and no family support. Many of them end up in overcrowded shelters or on the street.

The GTA's affordable housing crisis makes this situation worse. Vacancy rates are about 1%, so it’s hard for former prisoners to find a safe home. Even if they can afford rent, many are turned away. Ex-prisoners are one of the only groups that landlords can openly and legally discriminate against when it comes to housing.

Studies show that ex-prisoners who have stable and secure housing after release are far less likely to re-offend. As a result, housing benefits not only ex-prisoners hoping to reintegrate, but also our society as a whole.

The results

These numbers clearly lay out an unsustainable situation. Supporting a person successfully return to the community has many positive impacts on society, but doing nothing will continue to have a negative impact.

Restorative Justice Housing Ontario (RJHO) can contribute to reducing recidivism rates and support positive reintegration by providing a safe and supportive environment where former prisoners can focus on re-entering society.

You can read more about the issues in our frequently asked questions, or learn about how we can help.

A young man sitting on the ground with his hand on his head

Frequently asked questions

What’s the cost of the criminal justice system in Canada?

Criminal justice delivery encompasses three primary components:

  1. policing;
  2. courts (judges, prosecutors, legal aid, and youth justice); and
  3. corrections (including parole).

According to the John Howard Society of Canada, the total (federal, provincial and municipal) public spending on criminal justice in Canada per year is about $20 billion. About 70% of this spending is provincial/municipal. The total amounts to about $550 in taxes per person in Canada per year.

Of this, nearly $5 billion is for jails and prisons, of which about 55% is provincial and 45% federal. The rest is for courts and police.

How much does it cost to keep a person in a federal prison?

In 2016-2017, the Parliamentary Budget Officer reported an average of 14,310 offenders in federal custody. The average institution-specific expenditures associated with each inmate were $114,587 per year or $314 per day, per offender, and 96% of these costs are attributable to custody.

Impact: The cost per student per year in post-secondary education in Canada was a little over $20,000 in 2012. The cost of one provincial prisoner could pay for 3 post-secondary education students, and one federal prisoner is equivalent to the cost of educating 5 students.

What are the other societal costs of crime?

There have been many studies over time on the total cost of crime in Canada. One such study was done in 2016 and titled: The Monetary Cost of Criminal Trajectories for an Ontario Sample of Offenders.

Cost estimates for the study were obtained for the following components pertaining to the societal impact of offending: 1) victim costs; 2) correctional costs; 3) other criminal justice system (CJS) costs, for example: police, court, prosecution, legal aid expenditures, etc.

The table below is from this report and provides some perspective on the impact on victims of crime.

Average Costs by Offender Disposition Profile

Category Victim costs Correctional costs Other CJS costs Total costs
G1: Federal Custody (N=35) $1,530,830 $782,647 $2,347,940 $4,661,417
G2: Provincial Custody (N=257) $417,729 $305,619 $916,857 $1,640,205
G3: Adult record, no custody (N=49) $315,200 $146,360 $439,081 $900,642
G4: Youth record only (N=45) $138,280 $210,586 $604,758 $944,624
Total (N=386) $473,064 $316,528 $949,584 $1,739,176

The RJHO initiative is focused on individuals in Category 1 who are at high risk to reoffend and where the Victim Costs are the greatest.

In addition to saving money in terms of Correctional Costs and other criminal justice expenditures an important question to consider is: How much is saved in terms of societal cost and pain to victims when a crime is avoided?

Why can't former prisoners find safe housing?

When returning from prison, especially after a long period of incarceration, many people experience challenges when trying to rent an apartment, such as:

  • Many landlords will not rent to people with a criminal record
  • Many people returning from prison can't afford first and last month's rent
  • They often have a long gap in rental history, so they lack the references many landlords demand
  • They don't have the required identification and banking capabilities to get approved for a lease
  • They have a poor credit history
  • Rents in Toronto have increased by 26% over the past 10 years, the vacancy rate has dropped to 1%, and there is a lack of new rental and affordable housing
  • The majority of shelter users are on Ontario Works (OW) or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) (37% and 29% respectively)
  • OW shelter benefit rates have only increased by 8%
What is restorative justice?

According to the Canadian Department of Justice:

"Restorative justice has been part of Canada’s criminal justice system for over 40 years. Restorative justice is commonly defined as an approach to justice that focuses on addressing the harm caused by crime while holding the offender responsible for their actions, by providing an opportunity for the parties directly affected by the crime – victims, offenders and communities – to identify and address their needs in the aftermath of a crime.

Restorative justice is based on an understanding that crime is a violation of people and relationships. The principles of restorative justice are based on respect, compassion and inclusivity. Restorative justice encourages meaningful engagement and accountability and provides an opportunity for healing, reparation and reintegration. Restorative justice processes take various forms and may take place at all stages of the criminal justice system."

Get involved

Let's have a conversation about how you or your group can help find safe, supportive and sustainable housing for an ex-prisoner in need.