Corrections Canada Just Doesn’t Get It

Remember that old Lily Tomlin skit where she played the arrogant telephone operator? She would always remind frustrated customers that ?we can do anything we want because we don?t care ? we don?t have to care because we?re the phone company.?

It appears someone in senior management at Corrections Canada really took a liking to that routine and has turned it into policy.

It was only a few months ago that Eric Fish took an unauthorized walk from a Vernon halfway house and promptly committed yet another home invasion; murdering an elderly gentleman, William Abramenko, in the process. There was outrage across the land that Corrections Canada, which had the authority to keep Fish in custody, opted to turn him loose on the community even though they were warned he was likely to re-offend.

I was asked during a CBC Radio interview if this tragedy would prompt Corrections Canada to become more cautious and vigilant in the future. I nearly laughed. CBC has yet to invite me back for a follow up session.

Well, here we are a short time later and as they say, it?s déjà vu all over again.

Convicted murderer Scott Kindt is scheduled to be released on statutory release this week. He has barely served four years of his sentence and guess what? He?s coming to a halfway house in someone?s neighborhood. Maybe yours.

Kindt has a long and frightening history of violence.  In 1993, he severely beat a man with a wooden stick.  In 1994, he was convicted of Assault Causing Bodily Harm for an unprovoked attack which left his victim with a permanent brain injury.  And in 1995, Kindt stabbed a man to death at a house party, but was acquitted on a technicality.

In 2000 he was found guilty of manslaughter in another killing and was given seven years; a short, but typical sentence for taking a life in this country.  

During his time in custody, Kindt has repeatedly refused to participate in anger management programs and has taken no responsibility for his actions. Last fall, he was denied a Temporary Absence due to his ?undue risk?. His psychological reports refer to serious concerns about his ?explosive and deadly behavior.? And now, even though Corrections Canada and the National Parole Board have the authority to detain him for the remaining three years of his sentence, they prefer to take their chances. This means, residents of some unlucky town hosting a halfway house will be taking theirs.

Halfway houses were never intended to house dangerous killers who have refused treatment. They were designed to assist those offenders, who have actively participated in their rehabilitation, in reconnecting with the community. Halfway houses were meant to facilitate reintegration and the gradual re-entry into society.

Clearly, Corrections Canada still doesn?t understand this. Halfway houses continue to be used as a dumping ground for high risk offenders who have no business being anywhere other than a secure facility. But secure facilities are expensive compared to halfway houses. And if the federal government kept spending money on security, how would they have any to give to their friends in the Quebec advertising agency business? Consequently, Ottawa has made it clear they want as many offenders, rehabilitated or not, released as early as possible.

To release yet another untreated, high risk killer on the law abiding public so soon after the Vernon incident is despicable. From 1975 to 1999, parolees killed 367 times. And 53 of these murders were committed by those assigned to halfway houses. This, ladies and gentlemen, is not an impressive track record. This is abysmal.

But as usual, we should expect the same old blowhards, apologists and defenders of the status quo to support Kendt?s release to a halfway house.

Corrections Canada will no doubt once again remind us of the wonderful job they?re doing. Prisoner?s rights groups will continue to spread the lie that we?re actually safer when high risk murderers are free to come and go as they choose. Liberals and other alternative universe dwelling, left wing mouth pieces will argue that killers have rights too.

It?s all so predictable and tiring. And all too often, results in tragedy.

Keeping dangerous offenders, who refused to take programs and treatment, in custody until their sentences have expired?

What an unprogressive thought.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at John.Martin@ucfv.ca