The number of federal inmates older than 50 surged by almost half in less than a decade as prisons undergo a demographic trend with wide-ranging implications for Canada’s correctional system.

Figures provided by Correctional Service Canada peg their number at 2,379 of the 13,286 total inmates in 2009 — a 45 per cent hike from the 1,646 out of 12,663 people locked up in 2002.

The numbers will rise even further if the Conservative government passes its tough-on-crime agenda that aims to lock up convicts for longer periods, says Canada’s federal prison ombudsman.

“We will see more people spending more time in prison,” Howard Sapers, the correctional investigator of Canada, told the media.