KILLERS AT LARGE
Sometimes, uncontrollable impulses took over. When that occurred, the shy, unmarried shipping clerk became a violent child molester. In 1978, he invited two boys to his Toronto apartment, where he choked them to the point of unconsciousness, stripped them and fondled them. Those assaults earned the man a five-year prison sentence. But by 1982, he was out again. And in 1984, he took home a two-year-old boy, partly undressed him and took photographs. For that act, which the boy reported to his parents, the chubby, sandy-haired assailant went back to prison for a sixyear term. But after a closed hearing last month —attended by Maclean's on condition that the man’s name not be revealed—the National Parole Board of Canada approved the man’s early release, cutting short his term before its expiry in 1990. Diagnosed by psychiatrists as a homosexual pedophile with sadistic tendencies, he is scheduled to be freed to a Toronto halfway house in October. “It feels like a dream come true,” he said.
To many Canadians, the release of a repeat sex offender is the stuff of nightmares. In recent years, instances of violence committed by freed convicts have haunted communities across the country. In Moncton, N.B.: a teenage store clerk shot dead late last year by a drunken resident of a halfway house. In Toronto: a young woman sexually assaulted and stabbed to death in January by a convicted rapist freed on a 48hour pass. In Chilliwack, B.C.: an orgy of murder and necrophilia committed just before Christmas by a paroled sex killer.
Each outrage brings fresh accusations that paroled criminals endanger public safety—and new demands for a harder line on granting prisoners early release. Metro Toronto Councillor Kay Gardner described the rapist in the January incident as “an animal.” She
added, “These people don’t belong on the street.” Last month, federal Solicitor General James Kelleher, whose responsibilities include penitentiaries and parole, responded to demands for action. On June 15, he unveiled proposals that would force prisoners in federal penitentiaries to serve more of their sentences before they are released. If his recommendations become law— they have yet to be framed as legislation-most inmates would not become eligible for full parole until they had completed half their sentences rather than one-third, the current practice.
Kelleher also said that he would like to reduce the scope of both day parole and sentence reductions for good behavior. Added Kelleher: “The overriding criterion must be: will release of this inmate constitute an undue risk to the public? If it does, we do not want that person out” (page 48).
Alarm: The widespread appeal of that tough new line was swiftly demonstrated by public reaction to a recent crime in Brampton, Ont., a city of 188,000 northwest of Toronto. On June 18, police charged Joseph Fredericks, 45, a furniture company worker, with the murder of Christopher Stephenson, an 11-year-old who had been abducted from a local mall two days earlier. Fredericks had been freed in March after serving 40 months of a five-year term for sexually assaulting a boy in
Ottawa. Late last month, a petition demanding stiffer controls on convicted sex offenders had gathered more than 300 signatures from alarmed Brampton residents.
Locking: Clearly, parole board panels sometimes free dangerous criminals. But the defenders of current policy say that tragic consequences of early releases are exceedingly rare. The arguments in favor of early release range from the cheaper cost—$6,500 a year for a paroled prisoner, compared with about $46,000 a year to house a jailed convict—to improving the prospects
that an offender will reform. Indeed, many experienced observers say that the present system of conditional early release contains more safeguards than the frequently demanded alternative: locking up convicts for as long as possible. According to Neil Boyd, the director of the school of criminology at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Kelleher’s proposals to keep more convicts in prison longer are “not just flawed but dangerous.” Added Boyd: “I don’t know of any respectable research that supports what they are planning.”
But advocates of tougher sentencing policies point to recent horrific crimes to justify their demand for tighter controls. In one incident, the parole board granted a temporary absence from Ontario’s Warkworth Institution to Melvin Glenn Stanton, 32, last January— despite reports that the convicted rapist had recently terrorized another convict with a butcher knife taken from the prison kitchen. On Jan. 27, Stanton walked away from Montgomery Centre, a Toronto halfway house and, hours later, killed 25-year-old Tema Conter in her own apartment. Stanton pleaded guilty to Conter’s murder on June 17. The same week, witnesses who appeared before the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench told the court that 33-year-old parolee Patrick Mailloux had left a Moncton transition
house last Nov. 14 to spend a day drinking and taking drugs. That evening, Mailloux entered a convenience store in the city and, after emptying the store’s till, shot cashier Laura Davis, 16, to death. On June 15, a jury found Mailloux guilty of murder. Mailloux is appealing that conviction.
One month after Mailloux shot Davis, another parolee, Allan George Foster, 38, fell asleep in his Chilliwack home at the end of a night of bloodlet-
ting. In one bed, the body of his common-law wife, Joan Pilling, 34, lay wrapped in a bloodstained sheet—Foster had beaten her with a claw hammer and then stabbed her repeatedly in the heart with a kitchen knife. In another bedroom, a mattress partly covered the bodies of two 12-year-old girls—Filling’s daughter, Linda Brewer, and her friend, Megan McCleary. Foster had killed both youngsters with a hammer and then, forensic evidence disclosed,
had sexually assaulted the corpses. Later that day, Dec. 13, Foster surrendered himself to police in Penticton and, two weeks later, he managed a grim cell block suicide by pressing ballpoint pens into his chest.
Rape: An inquest later heard that Foster, a cabinetmaker, had raped his sister-in-law before beating her to death in 1971. He was sentenced to life imprisonment one year later. But that term ended with parole in 1980, after Foster’s case management officer at Mountain Institution at Agassiz, B.C., described him as “one of the sanest people I have ever met.” Added his parole officer, Robert McHallam: “I never considered him likely to commit a violent offence again.” But shortly before Foster killed himself, he delivered a devastating judgment to a doctor who examined him in jail. Said Foster: “There is only one thing crazier than me and that is the society that lets me do what I do. I should still be in jail. This would not have happened.” Critics of parole voice similar condemnations.
One of the most outspoken advocates for more stringent controls is Gary Rosenfeldt, the founder and president of Edmonton-based Victims of Violence, a group that lobbies for stiffer penalties for violent crime. Rosenfeldt’s stepson, Daryn Johnsrude, z died in 1981, one of 11 vieil tims of B.C. serial child 8 killer Clifford Olson. Said Rosenfeldt: “The system is 2 designed for early release. They throw violent murderers into halfway houses, and they go out and get drunk at nights and do their stuff.” Added Toronto’s Gardner: “Parole officials
seem to be quite willing to gamble with the lives of innocent people.”
Force: But the rules that govern the selection of prisoners for early release have been stiffened repeatedly during the past 20 years. On most days, roughly 8,000 of the 19,000 people in Canada serving sentences of more than two years are outside federal prison walls—
on parole, on temporary passes or on mandatory supervision. Under mandatory supervision, offenders must report regularly to police or parole officers and abide by other conditions, including restrictions on travel. That form of limited freedom came into force in 1970, replacing a policy that had seen prisoners earn as much as one-third off their sentences for good behavior.
But parole has been most severely limited for those serving life sentences. Until 1968, lifers became eligible for parole after only seven years in prison. But in 1968, Ottawa raised that threshold to 10 years and then, in 1976, after the abolition of hanging, increased the compulsory time in prison to a maximum of 25 years. In fact, less than 40 per cent of all prisoners receive approval for any form of parole at all.
And of those, less than one per cent leave prison when they reach their first eligible date for full parole. In a statement to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice last December, then-parole board chairman Ole Ingstrup said that public safety had replaced prisoner rehabilitation as the prime consideration in granting parole.
That approach was clearly evident during the Toronto shipping clerk’s 90-minute appearance last month before a three-member board. One year earlier, the man had lost a bid for day parole. Now another hearing—held in a windowless room of the modern medium-security prison at Warkworth, 35 km east of Peterborough, Ont.—would determine if he should gain early release on mandatory supervision. Flanked by a lawyer and two corrections officers, the prisoner answered the board’s questions.
Nude: At one point in a series of direct, intense questions, chairman Malcolm Stienburg challenged, “Is there not a chance of you killing a child to silence the victim?” In response, the man shook his head and said that his fear of returning to prison would keep him from committing such a crime. He added, “This is my last chance to get it together.” To strengthen his bid for parole, the convicted pedophile noted that he had tried to change his sexual habits by attending a correctional service treatment program for sex offenders in Kingston, Ont., and by using magazines
featuring photos of nude women to refocus his sexual impulses (page 46). Even so, the man stopped short of claiming that he had completely reformed: “I wouldn’t say I was cured, but I have made gains.”
Curfew: In the end, the convicted child molester won his release, after board members spent 15 minutes discussing his case behind closed doors. But his freedom will carry some conditions. For one thing, he must spend the final 24 months of his sentence at a west-Toronto halfway house where he will be expected to sign out and return by a set curfew time. In addition, he must continue to take counselling and stay away from gathering places for children under 16.
If the man is like most inmates who receive early release on mandatory supervision, he will meet those conditions during the remaining 24 months of his sentence without further incident. In its most complete study, the parole board monitored 7,855 federal inmates who were granted full parole between 1977 and 1982. As of April, 1987, 82 per cent of those prisoners had completed their parole without facing charges for new crimes. And 81 per cent of the 12,816 prisoners who were released under mandatory supervision during the same period finished their sentences without incurring new criminal charges.
At the same time, other studies dispute the widespread impression that many released murderers kill again. Of 457 murderers who were freed on full parole between 1975 and 1986, only two
individuals have been convicted of a second homicide. Indeed, convicts on early release committed only 130 of the 7,838 Canadian homicides that occurred during that same 11-year period—less than two per cent. Prisoners’ advocates cite those figures to argue that parole practices need no further tightening. Indeed, they say that they are already needlessly harsh. Hugh Haley, the executive director of the John Howard Society of Ontario, which promotes prisoners’ welfare, pointed to the majority of offenders who complete their paroles successfully and asked, “Are we going to keep hundreds of people in jail just to save two or three?”
But another argument in favor of early release may prove more persua-
sive than pleas based on the rights of convicted felons. Many observers of the justice system say that releasing prisoners before the end of their sentences—while their behavior can still be influenced by the threat of a return to prison—is safer than holding the same inmates to the last day of their terms and then letting them out without any supervision at all. Toronto criminal defence lawyer David Cole, for one, expressed concern about the consequences of releasing inmates from such high-security settings as Millhaven Penitentiary, near Kingston, directly onto the street. Said Cole: “I worry when I see clients of mine who come directly from the hole at Millhaven and are riding the bus beside me the next morning. That scares me.” Added Hubert Massiah, the Vancouver-based regional director for the John Howard
Society in British Columbia: “Prison life is a very harsh, cruel society. The skills you develop are exactly the opposite of what you need to be successful in the community.”
Many inmates also say that they need both time and help to adapt to life outside the prison walls. One of them is Ronald Shumlick, 35, who lives in an Edmonton halfway house, completing a fiveyear sentence that he received in 1985 for various drug and theft charges. Said Shumlick: “If you are not released gradually from prison, it’s too much of a culture shock.” And in Toronto, a 43year-old convicted former cocaine dealer, who requested anonymity, reflected: “Take a guy, lock him up, then cut him loose: that’s like letting a wild animal out of a cage.
Critics: Kelleher’s proposals for change have pleased the parole system’s harshest critics. But people on both sides of the debate have accused the solicitor general of failing to distinguish between violent and nonviolent offenders. Such critics as Vancouver’s Boyd predicted that the longer prison terms required would lead to “the manufacture of career criminals.” Rosenfeldt, too, said that he was troubled by suggestions that would lengthen jail terms for all inmates. He added: “We want a distinction between violent and nonviolent offenders. We want nonviolent offenders released earlier. That is not what they are doing.”
For his part, Kelleher insisted that better rehabilitation programs will help convicts emerge reformed from their longer terms. But present practice offers little to support that view. Although most federal and provincial prisons offer trades courses and basic educational upgrading, other problems are largely ignored. Despite studies indicating that up to 65 per cent of inmates are functionally illiterate, Kelleher’s department only last year launched programs in every prison to teach affected convicts to read
and write. And few prisons provide effective counselling aimed at the emotional and psychological problems that many experts say underlie much criminal behavior. In many institutions, there is little treatment for drug abuse or alcoholism. At Ontario’s Warkworth Institution, for one, where almost half the roughly 650 inmates have committed sexual offences—and as many as 80 per cent may have personality disorders—four staff psychologists say that they are too overworked to provide effective therapy. Declared one of them, Gene Duplessis: “I work on a very reactive basis. It is crisis management.” Act: At the same time, experts acknowledge that any form of treatment is frequently ineffective for the most dangerous offenders. Indeed, some U.S. studies show that at least 15 per
cent and possibly 75 per cent of imprisoned violent criminals are psychopaths—individuals who do not have the capacity for compassion or remorse. Most psychologists and psychiatrists say that, whatever their number in the prison population, true psychopaths are almost incurable. Said Dr. Mark BenAron, chief of forensic services at Toronto’s Clarke Institute of Psychiatry: “They are extremely intractable. This kind of guy, you know dollars to doughnuts he is going to be in trouble again.” Added Edward Zambie, a psychologist at Queen’s University in Kingston who specializes in criminal behavior: “It is impossible to tell who is going to get into a major act of violence.” Homicide: Still, that task is faced daily by the parole board’s 120 fulland parttime members. And it will remain so even if Kelleher’s controversial proposals become law. Said Roger Labelle, the board’s vice-chairman: “We are doing our best. There are only isolated in9 stances of failure.” Indeed, I barely one-quarter of one per I cent of the 52,484 people released on full parole or mandatory supervision between 1975 and 1986 later killed someone. But over more than a decade, those instances still accounted for an average of one homicide a month.
Certainly, statistics offer little comfort for the grief that occurs when a board panel makes an error in judgment. Langley, B.C., RCMP Const. Eric Brewer, whose daughter, Linda, was among Foster’s victims, said that he had heard a parole board spokesman in a recent TV broadcast describe the repeat murder rate by paroled killers as “insignificant.” Declared Brewer: “Insignificant to whom? I don’t think it would be insignificant if it was somebody in their family.”
Malcolm Stienburg and his parole board colleagues had to weigh such risks at last month’s hearing to determine the fate of a pedophile. In the end, they chose to release him to streets where children play—consciously gambling on the odds that most inmates are salvageable.
-CHRIS WOOD with DEBORRA SCHUG in Vancouver, DOUG SMITH in Winnipeg, TOM REGAN in Halifax and correspondents’ reports