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Can prisoners be compensated for damaged personal property?

Prisoners are responsible for the safekeeping of the property in their possession. When the Service is responsible for the safekeeping of prisoner property, they must take all reasonable steps to protect prisoners’ property.

Correctional Service Canada has the discretion to compensate prisoners for property that is lost or damaged. Prisoners submit a claim form, and the decision-maker will decide if the claim is accepted and how much will be paid out.

The Service will not compensate prisoners in certain circumstances. For example, if the property is damaged in a riot or major disturbance, the damaged property was a work-related article that is available for free to the prisoner, the Service is legally liable for the damage (meaning a court proceeding should be commenced), there are other possible sources of compensation, etc. The Service will normally deny claims for certain types of items, such as perishable and consumable items as well as items not on the prisoner’s property list (unless they were not required to be recorded or efforts were made to have them recorded).

A prisoner needs to submit an Inmate Claim for Lost or Damaged Effects form. The Service is to provide a response within 60 days, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

The amount of compensation is the lesser of the amount on the claim form, value assigned in property records, the cost of repairing the item, the maximum dollar valued allowed for the item in a policy document, or the cost to replace the item. This may, in practice, mean that a prisoner receives less than they would want or need to replace the item.

Prisoners also have the option of commencing court proceedings to try and get compensation. If a prisoner is seeking compensation through legal proceedings, their claim with the Service will be put on hold pending the result of the proceedings.

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