What Happened

Despite positive evaluations for this award winning program, Correctional Service Canada (CSC) announced in April 2012 that the LifeLine program would be terminated.

Federal reviews reportedly did not find the program to be cost-effective, and the CSC has cut the program as part of the 2012 Budget cuts.

The LifeLine program is run in partnership with the Correctional Service Canada (CSC), the National Parole Board, and community-based organizations that oversee the program. It has received several awards for its work, notably the Canadian Criminal Justice Association’s Achievement Award in October 2011, and LifeLine’s model is being replicated in other countries, for instance in the United States, in Colorado.

The LifeLine program is estimated to cost $2 million per year out of CSC’s $3 billion annual budget.

In April 2012, CSC reportedly announced that the program would be terminated by August 31. Ending the LifeLine program is part of broader cuts to the CSC announced in the 2012 Budget.

According to the CBC, CSC released a statement claiming that “the program was not proven to be cost-effective”. Julie Carmichael, speaking on behalf of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, was quoted in the CBC saying that the LifeLine program “wasn't producing any results that improved public safety.” These comments are reportedly based on federal research.

But the St-Leonard’s Society of Canada (SLSC), which supervises the LifeLine program, disagrees and declared in an April 16 official statement that the LifeLine program has demonstrated “good public safety results.” Skip Graham, from the SLSC, told the CBC that “it’s the most practical, humane program that has proven itself, and it’s the one they’ve decided to eliminate, so it’s just politics.”

By cutting the LifeLine program in its entirety, the CSC will be laying off an estimated 26 ex-inmates who successfully reintegrated after parole and were employees of the LifeLine program, providing mentoring support for current life-sentenced prisoners.

The number of life-sentence offenders who received LifeLine services in 2010-2011 was estimated to 2,280. 

The CSC’s website still includes a page praising the LifeLine program.


Relevant Dates:

  • 1991: The Correctional Service Canada (CSC) created the LifeLine program
  • April 2012: The CSC announced it will terminate the LifeLine program and sees its own budget cut as part of savings announced in the 2012 Budget

Role or Position

LifeLine is a program that was created in 1991 by the Correctional Service Canada (CSC) to provide support services for prisoners facing life sentences. The program helps to rehabilitate prisoners, preparing them for reintegration into society when they have been released on parole. It employs successfully reintegrated ex-prisoners who mentor inmates. The LifeLine program has won several awards for its work that made prisoners released less likely to be re-offenders. 

Implications and Consequences

  • Equality:  The LifeLine program provided a humane support for offenders sentenced to life, giving them the prospect of reintegration into society. The loss of the program is a loss of the possibility for inmates to be rehabilitated into society.
  • Knowledge: Programs such as LifeLine provide evidence to inform policy on criminal justice and rehabilitation. Several of the community-based organizations overseeing the program propose policies that have at their core the dignity of every individual and the right to a second chance. 
  • Transparency: The cuts to Correctional Services Canada (CSC) - and thus to the Lifeline program - are one of the many budgetary reductions included in the 2012 federal budget. There have been complaints about the secrecy in which the government is undertaking such cuts and the lack of information about the impact of the cuts. The case for more transparency has been made by the Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, a non-partisan public servant who has faced considerable hurdles in obtaining information on the impact of cuts, especially in relation to the impact of omnibus bills.


Date published: 29 June 2012

Date updated: 22 Octobre 2012