Sunday, March 2, 2008

Province Column

We're not doing enough for the criminals who can be helped

David Berner

The Province
Sunday, March 02, 2008

Do you believe in evil? I've seen evil. I've smelled it, shaken hands with it.

A man was out on day parole from a federal prison. I was the moderator at a conference on justice issues. The man talked to me at coffee breaks and the lunch break.

Can you imagine what this man was doing time for? No, you cannot imagine.

One night, when he was drunk, the man slashed his infant daughter to pieces and then did some unspeakable things to the remains.

The social worker assigned to this lunatic's case told me he refused to work with the client after he had read the file. We all have limits.

Why was this convict out on a day pass?

Premier Gordon Campbell has said in one breath that he will review sentencing in the province. In the next, he admits that sentencing of major crimes is a federal responsibility and out of his hands. If Campbell or Prime Minister Stephen Harper would ever like to seriously examine the justice system, they might consider this.

There are two kinds of criminals serving time in Canadian prisons. We all too often do exactly the wrong things with both types.

The first kind is the maniac, the crossed-entirely-over-to-the-dark-side evil psycho. This person is a clear and present danger to the community and always will be.

Much too often, they are released. Why? Because they have served their time, or because the geniuses at the National Parole Board have read a report by a psychiatrist which states, "Subject
presents relatively low risk of re-offending."

Who's the crazy one here?

The second kind of prisoners are the "dumb goofs." They're in the majority.

Never the sharpest reed in the wind section, they consistently make lousy choices.
They might be an addict or a low-level thief, or both -- or a really, really bad bank robber.

But they could be helped. Yes, they could actually be turned around if we bothered to care and to work at it with him.

How do I know this? I have worked with hundreds of men and women who did exactly that.
They worked hard and turned their miserable lives around. They became reasonable human beings and citizens.

The "dumb goofs" deserve less time in jail and more reality-based counselling, direction, care and help.

Not, "How did you feel when you hit your wife, Lenny?" But, "What could you do with your Wednesday nights beside get smash-faced with your old buddies?"

We needn't hire shrinks to ask all the wrong questions. We already have custodial staff and parole officers who could be taught the methodologies that get results.

We could divert hundreds from the corrections cycle to legitimate integration into the law-abiding community.

The whack jobs, the truly dangerous crazies?

They should be locked up in maximum-security prisons and kept there for long periods of time.
Like, life.

That's what we used to call "protection of the community."


PelaLusa said...

Well written, David. I hadn't thought of the situation quite like that before. Though it makes sense, as the extremes in society (squeakiest wheels) tend to get things done to appease them

In this case we have ultra-liberals pulling in one direction and ultra-conservatives pulling in another. At the end of the day, no one is happy.

Before returning to Vancouver I will be submitting a letter to the Sun & Province in the difference between the civil cities in Vancouver (fiction) and Honolulu (fact). Not everything is perfect over here but much is a LOT better than back home.

Anonymous said...

I agree with above - very well-written David. Disgusting to think that that lunatic was out on a day pass. As a parent, I see that these days barely anyone is letting their kids walk home from school alone - we all live in a reign of fear from the spectre of these nutbars possibly in our neighbourhoods on their nice day passes.