The word is out about British Columbia’s Oakalla prison: it doesn’t honor reservations. Because of overcrowding, people sentenced to weekends are checking in Friday nights and are promptly given the whole weekend off. Prison director Henry Bjarnason admits that constitutes light punishment for crimes ranging from drunk driving to theft and fraud, and that the situation “may not exactly be what the courts had in mind, but you have to remember these people got sentenced to weekends for a reason. Most of them are family people, working for a living.” Moreover, prison officials maintain that of the 100-odd people doing “intermittent time,” only those who have been in for several weekends and behaved them-
selves—“reporting on time, and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol’’—are eligible for the passes.
One night last month, 36 inmates supposed to be serving intermittent time were turned away. When news of the arrangement leaked in Vancouver, Bjarnason worried about public reaction: “We know there is concern that we’re turning ’em loose like it was a field day for them,’’ he said, and one guard reported the prison driveway often looks “like Stanley Park on a Sunday afternoon" as the men, wives or girl friends in tow, drive up, hop out and report to the gate with their suitcases and tape decks (just in case they have to stay). “Anybody getting out tonight?” has become the standard way they announce their arrival. “You’re a winner, Bub,” replied a guard to one recent supplicant, and another man, who had served only two of 15 weekends for 11 counts of theft and breaking and entering cried, “Why, [this is no deterrent,” then bounded off (into the free night air. JUDITH TIMSON
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