Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Crime & Punishment-The Canadian Way

Alice English, a 55-year-old grandmother who worked as a guard in Montreal's Bordeaux jail was convicted last May for smuggling drugs into the prison.

After her arrest, in a four hour interview with Quebec police, she gave a very detailed account the crime. She admitted that she had brought in various contraband items, including crack cocaine and cell phones, claiming that she was coerced into smuggling the items by inmates who threatened her family and not for the $1000 she was paid.

At trial, she completely repudiated her videotaped confession and maintained that she had been badgered by police into making a false statements.

Nobody at trial, believed her, not the judge, not the prosecutor and not even her own lawyer, who called her story "hard to believe."

Both the crown and defence suggested that a five and a half year sentence was appropriate and Quebec Court Judge Patrick Healy agreed, convicting her on four counts of trafficking in drugs and one of conspiracy to traffic.
She was then packed off to jail.

Now for rub.

She was recently granted parole and sent to a halfway house, after serving less than one year.
Yup, eleven months.

It seems that in Canada, under the right circumstances, a five a half year prison sentence can be purged in less than a year. Really!

I always thought (foolishly) that when you applied for parole, you had to have served at least one third of your sentence, behaved well in jail and taken ownership and responsibility for your crime.

Remember Roger Latimer, the Saskatchewan farmer who killed his daughter because she was suffering excruciating pain due to her cerebral palsy. He wouldn't admit to the parole board that the mercy-killing was wrong, that he was remorseful and that he regretted his actions. Because of this, his release was held up.

Alice English stills maintains her innocence today and now claims she was not aware of what was inside the bag she smuggled into prison. She has maintained this fiction throughout her trial and subsequent incarceration. English also claims that although she worked as a guard for sixteen years, this was the first time she ever smuggled anything into prison. Sure....
She has variously told stories that she was 'set up' by others and that she was 'testing' the system.

How she was granted parole under these conditions begs an explanation.

The incredibly generous parole offered to Canadian prisoners has not gone unnoticed.
Recently an American judge made it a condition that the Canadian women convicted for drowning her son in Lake Champlain, be obliged to do her time in the USA. He stated that he opposed repatriation based on the lenient parole system in Canada.

One of the motivating reasons behind David Radler's plea bargain and subsequent testimony in the trial of Conrad Black was the condition that he be transferred to a Canadian jail. Mr. Radler is already free after serving about a year of his 29 month sentence. How lovely.

Canadian prison officials are proud to remind us that their primary goal is rehabilitation.

Most Canadians would probably agree that the primary function of incarceration is punishment.

Perhaps we need to change the old saying -

"Do the crime- Do the time"

to reflect the Canadian reality;

"Do the Crime - Do very little time"

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