Tougher crime legislation (Bill C-10)

As police officers, we are trained in many things related to crime and punishment, but what we don’t know much about is what happens after a conviction.

I have had quite the education, of late, on our parole system, victim notification system and even the types of programs available to offenders in our correctional facilities. It has been both enlightening and disheartening.

In 2007, a new entity, the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Victim/Witness Assistance Program was formed and they are responsible for communication between the correctional system and the victims.  They are a fantastic service and provide helpful information such as when the offender has been granted one of the four types of available passes to leave the facilities.  This program is not automatic and victims have to “sign up” but it is well worth the paperwork involved.

They have a good notification system in case the offender is unlawfully at large or escapes custody and, providing there are no glitches, this information will be forwarded to the victims, if they choose that method of notification, ahead of time.  What they cannot tell the victims, though, is what the offender is actually doing in prison.

We were recently in court for Melissa Todorovic’s application to remain in the youth facility for an additional year.  During that session, the court heard about all the fantastically banal programs in which she participated and those that she didn’t—any that addressed the crime itself.

Her application was denied and she moved to an adult facility on January 7th, as far as we know.

Being a bit shocked at the programs on offer to Melissa, I asked the victim assistance office about the programs available to David Bagshaw. I was told that it was a private matter and that information could only be shared with us if he authorized it.

Since the most important program available to participants should be the one that addresses the reason for the incarceration in the first place, it would stand to reason that attendance, at a minimum, be mandatory.   Apparently, logic is not part of this equation.

I must be completely “old school” because in our house, before we’re allowed play time, we have to complete homework, chores or whatever other responsibilities we have.  If a lie is told, an apology must be made and the fun stuff is removed. The same goes for cruel words, the odd “accidental” punch, and anything else five kids can inflict on each other.

Heaven forbid we should expect anyone to do something that’s uncomfortable or that they don’t want to do—even, or maybe I should say, especially, in prison.  I’m fairly sure Stefanie was not comfortable with meeting her death through a cruel stabbing at such a young age, nor did she want to suffer, but no one gave her a choice.

I am explaining all of this because knowing where our tax dollars go matters to me.  I want to know what those two are actually doing to get help for whatever issues they have that would cause them to believe that murder is an acceptable option for solving their relationship issues.

There is a Bill C-10, formally known as “The Safe Streets and Communities Act”, which is comprised of nine smaller bills.  I’m not a hundred percent up to speed on the entire bill, but what has not been spoken about much in the media is the changes for victims.

When and if this Bill is passed, the victim assistance staff will be able to give us more information about David and Melissa, including their participation—or not—in specific programs. It will allow the families of victims to be kept better informed about the behaviour and handling of offenders and authorize police to arrest, without a warrant, any offender who appears to be breaking his or her release conditions.

Regardless of the negative slant the media is putting on Bill C-10, I was pleased to hear about some of the focus rightly being given to victims and their families.

In an ideal world, a hug and a program would cure all offenders and the crime rates would continue to decline, but when it is your child who is murdered, raped or beaten, that statistic means absolutely nothing.

I don’t know what the solution is, but a good start would be to remove the choice for offenders when it comes to addressing their reasons for incarceration and a clear expectation that they be accountable to the lives they ruined.

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