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Wednesday, December 19, 2001
By Paul Souhrada
Dispatch Staff Reporter

While some state officials are preparing to close one prison, others are trying to figure out how to keep another facility from sinking further into the ground.

Neither the contractors who built the Belmont Correctional Institution, which opened in 1995 near St. Clairsville, nor the consultants hired by the state to look into the problem have determined what's causing the facility to shift.

Also still up in the air is how much it will cost to fix the problems and who will pick up the tab.

The prison was built above a reclaimed strip mine. One building is already unusable, and another is coming close.

Critics of a state plan to close the Orient Correctional Institution, about 15 miles south of Columbus in Pickaway County, say the prison system would be better served by shutting down Belmont instead.

State officials, however, say they are committed to saving Belmont.

Ben Piscitelli, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, said the state hopes to have a better handle on the situation by March.

"We are working with the state and the original contractor to help identify the source of the problems and the appropriate fix,'' said Robert Vennemeyer, chief executive officer of Design Group International, the project architect.

Similar sentiments were expressed by officials with Korda Nemeth Engineering and BBC&M, two consulting firms that worked on the project. An official with Smoot Construction, the general contractor, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Cracked walls and slanted floors at the inmate health center of the Belmont Correctional Institution provide evidence that its foundation is shifting. The state has known about the problem almost from the day the $32 million, minimum- and medium- security prison opened, Warden Art Tate Jr. said.

Two years ago, Tate closed one of eight inmate dormitories because of damage caused by the shifting foundation. The building was closed not so much because it was a security risk, but because an inmate could be injured and file a lawsuit, he said.

Since then, signs of the trouble have appeared in the prison administration building and in the inmate health center, where daylight shines through cracks in the concrete and the floor is noticeably slanted, he said.

Tate estimated that the health center will be unusable within 18 months if nothing is done to fix the problem. But with the state's current budget problems, he worries that it might be awhile before the situation is addressed.

"I don't think it's on anybody's fast track,'' he said.

In the meantime, state prison officials are putting in place a plan to shutter the Orient prison to help close a $19 million budget shortfall.

The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, the union that represents state prison guards, was outraged when the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections targeted Orient, which houses about 1,700 medium-security inmates.

They lobbied instead for one of the state's privately operated prisons to go. But if a state-run prison had to go, they wondered why not the similarly sized Belmont, with its potential millions in repair bills?

Department Director Reginald A. Wilkinson said one of the criteria used to identify a prison to close was its impact on the local economy.

Orient is located in a prison complex that also includes the Pickaway Correctional Institution, the Frazier Health Center and other facilities. Belmont, about 100 miles east of Columbus in Belmont County, is a stand-alone prison.

Closing the 2,000-inmate prison and eliminating its 523 jobs could devastate the county's economy, Wilkinson said.

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The Wall Street Journal - December 20, 2001

MILWAUKEE, Wisc. (The Wall Street Journal) -- In 1997, Wisconsin put Quovana Jones behind bars for cocaine possession. But like many states whose tough sentencing policies contributed to exploding inmate populations in the 1990s, Wisconsin didn't have enough cells for everyone it was locking up.

So Ms. Jones, who faced up to five years, was shipped 700 miles to a prison in West Virginia. She could no longer see her four children, who had visited regularly when she was held in Wisconsin, because their father couldn't afford the trip. The separation took a toll on her morale. Seeing family, she says, had "kept me on my feet."

Exporting prisoners became common in at least a third of the states, as the nation's state prison head count ballooned 75 percent, to more than 1.2 million, from 1990 through 2000. Wisconsin dispersed more inmates than any other state, sending them as far afield as Mississippi, Texas and Tennessee, in addition to West Virginia.

Inmate-importing states collected millions of dollars for housing out-of-state prisoners in excess public cells. For-profit prison companies also cashed in on the coast-to-coast convict shuffle.

As a result, Hawaiian felons came to reside an ocean away from home in New Mexico. Vermonters were shipped to Virginia. And inmates from the Pacific Northwest ended up doing time in the Rocky Mountains.

But now there are signs that the inmate-export business may be thrown in reverse. Wisconsin has had a change of heart, declaring that it plans to bring all of its prisoners back home. Colorado has already taken back the more than 1,400 inmates it shipped to other states in the 1990s. Other states, such as Alaska and Connecticut, are debating whether to follow suit.

The main reason for what appears to be a nascent countertrend is the leveling off of state inmate populations. Wisconsin's, for example, has stabilized at about 20,000, after nearly tripling in a decade. Falling crime rates and a recent softening of some especially harsh sentencing statutes have contributed to similar plateaus around the country.

No longer panicked over where to put a swiftly growing pool of convicts, state officials can focus on other concerns. Economic-development advocates argue that state corrections dollars should be invested at home, where they can generate local jobs. Colorado officials concluded that transportation costs and the difficulty of supervising their inmates from afar outweighed any expedience in sending excess prisoners away.

Beyond economics, corrections officials in Wisconsin, Colorado and other states say that moving inmates such as Ms. Jones far from their families and communities has a serious social consequence: It makes it less likely that released prisoners will rejoin society as law-abiding, productive citizens. "Family involvement adds to our rehabilitation efforts," says Jon Litscher, Wisconsin's corrections secretary. "Shipping them out of state cuts out a major component of that."

Pennsylvania had kept inmates within its borders in the 1990s but often sent them to opposite ends of the state in hopes of disrupting drug and gang ties. Officials there have concluded that this strategy made it harder for inmates to readjust to life outside prison. Now Pennsylvania prison administrators say they try to house convicts closer to their hometowns.

Wisconsin began exporting inmates in 1996, after its legislature toughened criminal statutes. In 1998, the state parole board made it harder for even well-behaved prisoners to get out early. Many Democratic state legislators had opposed calls for a massive expansion of in-state prison capacity, saying such a move would encourage even more draconian punishments.

The state's corrections department, seeing little choice, sent 700 inmates to Texas county jails that had extra beds. But it proved costly to shuttle the Wisconsin convicts around Texas as county beds opened.

So Wisconsin struck a deal with Corrections Corp. of America, the nation's biggest private-prison operator. The state transferred its growing number of exported inmates to Tennessee, CCA's home, paying the company $42 a day per prisoner. By 1999, more than 1,500 Wisconsin inmates were living in a CCA prison in Whiteville, Tenn., at an annual cost of about $23 million.

The politically potent union representing prison guards in Wisconsin fretted that jobs were flowing to Tennessee. But the union agreed to go along with the arrangement, in exchange for assurance from state politicians that private-prison companies wouldn't be allowed to operate lockups within Wisconsin -- something seen as an even bigger threat by the public-employees union.

Wisconsin cut more deals with CCA, sending convicts to company facilities in Oklahoma, Mississippi and Minnesota. The state separately paid the federal government to house female convicts in a federal prison in West Virginia. By 2000, more than 4,500 Wisconsin inmates -- 23 percent of the total -- resided outside of the state, at a cost of $74 million for the fiscal year that ended in June. That amount was about a fifth of the money Wisconsin spent to operate its adult prisons.

Voters had strongly supported the state's tough-on-crime push, but last year they began to express qualms about sending so many people to prison and so many prisoners to other states, according to Wisconsin politicians. "All of this was driven by politics and polling," says state Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala. In 2000, crime had faded as an issue, and voters' appetite for punishment "had really started to wane," adds Mr. Chvala, a Democrat who represents parts of Madison, the state capital, and surrounding areas.

Some voters disapproved of what they perceived as the inferior treatment Wisconsin inmates received in other states. A November 1999 riot at the Whiteville prison in Tennessee generated headlines in Wisconsin. Just a few weeks before, a Wisconsin circuit-court judge had ruled that four Wisconsin convicts couldn't be forced to transfer to out-of-state facilities, although the ruling later was overturned by a state appeals court.

Democratic state Sen. Gwendolynne Moore says bringing Wisconsin prisoners home became "the No. 1 topic" for many voters in her urban-Milwaukee district. Other Democrats representing similar districts say they, too, felt such pressure, especially from minority communities that had seen disproportionate numbers of their young people sent to prison during the 1990s.

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In the past few weeks there have been countless shootings in Toronto, police officers have been murdered in Ontario and Manitoba - where will it all end?

Maybe it is time that the public puts pressure on the Federal and Provincial governments to clean up their act!

Toronto's chief of police is starting up a special squad to deal with guns on the street. See the newspaper article.

Justice is mocked

It's no wonder people are losing confidence in the justice system. Just look at this week's charade in Manitoba where a 22-year-old man convicted of killing someone in a bar fight walked out of jail after serving only six months.

We shudder when we compare that to the eight months of secure custody handed down this week to a 17-year-old Kelvin High School student for selling marijuana and ecstasy. We're not opposed to the length of time the teen will spend at the Manitoba Youth Centre. He obviously needs to be sent a message.

But when you compare that to the six months served by Tyler Cascisa, who was convicted of manslaughter earlier this year, it's shameful. Cascisa beat Anthony McLaughlin, 20, to death outside the Pembina Hotel in May, 2000.

He received a jail term of two years less a day. He was granted day parole after serving only a quarter of that sentence.

And while Premier Gary Doer and Attorney General Gord Mackintosh are blaming the federal government for the early release, they have to take some responsibility, too.

After all, it was provincial Crown prosecutors that struck a plea bargain with Cascisa in the first place.

Cascisa was originally charged with second-degree murder. But prosecutors, as they so often do, agreed to reduce the charge to manslaughter in exchange for a guilty plea.

That was the first mistake and it falls squarely on Mackintosh's lap. Cascisa was charged with second degree murder and he should have been prosecuted on that charge.

The second mistake was made by Justice Wilfred DeGraves, who gave Cascisa only a two-year-less-a-day sentence. The third was made by the Court of Appeal which upheld the sentence. Most manslaughter convictions come with sentences in the five-year range.

The fourth error was made by the National Parole Board, which is federal. We find it preposterous this board would grant day parole to someone who has only served one-quarter of his sentence.

What's the point of meting out sentences only to have them sharply reduced by a parole board? It doesn't make sense and it erodes people's confidence in the justice system.

There's plenty of blame to go around on this one.

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Defence attorneys not be allowed to defend

Waterloo Region lawyers say they're being shut out of Ontario's new superjail, and their clients' right to a fair trial is suffering as a result. "It's terrible,'' said lawyer Hal Mattson, who says almost every time he drives to the Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, he is either turned away or delayed so long that he doesn't have enough time for an adequate meeting.

Many lawyers interviewed yesterday say that when they arrive to speak with clients, they're constantly told the jail is on lockdown. During lockdowns, inmates are kept in their cells for security reasons and no one from outside is allowed in.

One weekend last month, lawyer Steve Gehl drove back and forth to Maplehurst three times over two days, but still didn't get in to see a client whose case was coming up in court on the Monday.

He arrived on a Saturday afternoon, was turned away, drove back to Kitchener and returned Saturday night. Dismissed again, he came home and tried again on Sunday. He got the same message.

"They said they were short-staffed, in lockdown and on lunch,'' Gehl said of the various excuses.

He, like many lawyers, is getting frustrated.

"I'm not going down there to sit in the lobby,'' he said.

Veteran lawyer Tom Brock says that when lawyers are not allowed to see their clients, justice isn't served.

"I think it's terrible,'' Brock said. "It's a denial of one's right to counsel, which includes access to counsel. (The jail) is not facilitating contact between counsel and clients.''

The issue almost came to a head yesterday in Kitchener's Ontario Court. Lawyer Brad Dempster couldn't get in to see a client Wednesday who was scheduled for a trial yesterday.

Because he hadn't had the chance to review the case with his client and prepare him for trial, Dempster was all ready with an application asking the judge to either stay, dismiss or quash the charges against Darius Prine.

In the end, the Crown got an adjournment for an unrelated reason, and the case was put off to January. But Dempster said if the same thing happens next month before the trial, he'll go ahead with the application.

He argues Prine was deprived of his right to life, liberty and security under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and his right to a fair trial.

Longtime lawyer Wayne Rabley is so exasperated, he refuses to go anymore to the mega jail, opened last May.

"It's such a a waste of my time,'' he said. "It takes so long to get in, and you get in, and you wait forever. We don't get paid to drive there and wait to get in."

Brock said lawyers never had these problems at the Waterloo Detention Centre in Cambridge, where prisoners used to be housed while awaiting trial.

"In 20 years going down to Cambridge, I've never been denied access,'' even during a lockdown, he said.

Lawyers are supposed to be able to see clients at Maplehurst during two-hour blocks in the morning, afternoon and evening, and during the weekend.

Julia Noonan, a spokeswoman for the Ontario Corrections Ministry, said lockdowns occur if there are staff shortages or for staff to conduct a search.

But even during a lockdown, it wouldn't be normal procedure for lawyers not to be able to see their clients, she said.

She said lawyers were originally supposed to be able to walk unescorted to areas to meet with clients. But after a complaint by the corrections officers' union to the Ministry of Labour, shortly after the jail opened,they had to be escorted by staff.

She said managers realize there have been some problems and are trying to get some bugs out of the system.

Lawyers say the whole problem is worsened by the jail's refusal to take phone messages for clients.

But Noonan said the jail has had no complaints from lawyers about phone messages. She said Maplehurst superintendent Mike Mously wants to hear from lawyers having trouble accessing clients or getting phone messages to them.

Many lawyers work around the problem of access by taking court time to speak with their clients once they're brought to court.

Lawyer Kathleen Nolan said she asks for more adjournments for that purpose.

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Questions raised over Burtch staffing in wake of escape


BRANTFORD _ Timothy Sagriff, one of three inmates who escaped from Burtch Correctional Centre, is back behind bars. And, while several police forces try to track down the other two, the Ontario Solicitor General's office is investigating the circumstances surrounding the men's escape last Thursday.

A ministry spokeswoman says officials will review procedures at the minimum security institution to find out how the three inmates got away while being transferred from one unit to another.

The investigation comes after complaints emanating from Burtch -- including a letter from a staff member to The Expositor -- that there is not enough staff to handle a large influx of inmates from other jails.

Halton police captured Sagriff, 22, of Guelph. Brant County OPP said that he was caught late Saturday after chase involving a car stolen in Mississauga. OPP verified late Sunday that he was one of the three fugitives. Sagriff is being held in Milton, facing numerous charges.

``We have him and he probably won't be going anywhere for awhile,'' Brant County OPP Const. Tom Reansbury said Monday.

The other two fugitives, John Atkinson, 23, of Hamilton, and Jonathon Mackay, 24, of London, remained at large as of Monday.

The three were among a group of Burtch inmates being transferred between units at about 8 p.m. last Thursday. When they arrived at their destination, jail authorities discovered the three inmates were missing.

Officers from the Brant County and Haldimand-Norfolk OPP detachments were summoned, along with Six Nations police. A tracking dog followed the scent to Burtch Road, where the trail disappeared. Police believe they may have been picked up by a waiting vehicle.

The Ministry of the Solicitor General is investigating the escape.

``All aspects of the incident will be looked into,'' including if Burtch has enough staff for the number of inmates, said ministry spokeswoman Julia Noonan. ``Anything that might be a factor will be looked at.''

Some Burtch employees have been complaining that the facility can't handle an increase in the number of of prisoners, especially those in protective custody, which means they need extra care and supervision. And some also need medication for various physical or mental illnesses. Often that includes moving inmates from one unit to another where medication is dispensed.

On Thursday evening, when the escapes occurred, inmates were being transferred from Unit 5 to Unit 1, where medication is dispensed.

The Expositor has received a letter from Lorie Smith, a registered nurse at Burtch, expressing concern after the facility received 60 protective custody inmates from Guelph on Dec. 12. More inmates are expected shortly.

In the letter, written the day after the three inmates escaped, Smith states: ``Our staff levels at Burtch Correctional, guards and nurses, included, are not prepared for this increase in prison population.

``I feel having these offenders in this community and this minimum security facility is unsafe,'' the letter continues.

``With the amount of hours we work and the short staff, I feel afraid, first for myself, and the people of the surrounding community.''

In an interview, Smith said she realizes the letter could land her in hot water, but she decided to draw attention to the issue ``because I'm concerned.

"I'm looking for safety in the community," she said. "This should be made public. People around here have a right to know. We've already had three escapes.''

Noonan said that if Smith is worried for her safety she should take up her concerns with her supervisor or her union.

Noonan would not discuss the inmate status of the three escapees nor the nature of their criminal records, citing privacy legislation. Neither would she discuss, citing security reasons, any details concerning the transfer of more inmates to Burtch.

``We transfer inmates from one facility to another all the time,'" she said, adding that staff do an assessment on each inmate before any transfers.

Brant MPP Dave Levac, who is also the Liberal solicitor general critic, said he will closely follow the ministry's investigation. He said he put in a call to the ministry ``and all I got back is that `the proper protocols were followed.'''

Levac said he is glad that the ministry is conducting an investigation but he's concerned about its direction. If it's simply to determine whether the proper procedure was followed, ``they had that information already. They should have known their staffing level, and should have known whether the transfer was taxing their present staffing level.''

If those weren't being followed, ``that's bad management,'' he said.

``If the actions were according to the proper protocol, the protocol is wrong.''

Levac said he wants to make sure the review comes back with recommendations for improvement.

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BRANTFORD _ While police continue to hunt for two of three inmates still at large after an escape from Burtch Correctional Centre, a former longtime staff member says Yuletide escapes from the facility are actually quite common. ``It being Christmas, it's an extremely emotional time for these people,'' Bill McLaughlin,who had a 25-year career as a correctional officer at Burtch, said Thursday.

``Every year a handful would foul up. It's a minimum security institution and the inmates are classified as low risk. If they want to leave there isn't much that can be done to stop them.''

It was a week ago today that Timothy Sagriff, 22 of Guelph, John Atkinson, 23, of Hamilton, and Jonathon Mackay, 24, of London walked away from the facility.

They were among a group of inmates being transferred from one unit to another around 8 p.m. Thursday, and their absence was discovered in a head count when the group arrived at the unit of destination. An OPP tracking dog followed their trail to Burtch road where it went cold.

Sagriff was recaptured by Halton police two days later on Saturday, after pursuing officers stopped him in a car stolen in Mississauga. However, Atkinson and Mackay remain at large, Const. Tom Reansbury of Brant County OPP confirmed Thursday.

``It's a bit unusual for them to be out this long,'' said Reansbury, ``but they'll be found. It's a matter of time. Eventually they will come forth.''

The Ontario Solicitor General's office has ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the escape. Staff have been complaining lately of an influx of inmates transferred from other correctional facilities, particularly Guelph.

While several police forces continue to hunt for the other two escapees, McLaughlin said he wouldn't be surprised to hear the incident fits a pattern he saw often during his years at Burtch.

He said it was common for some inmates to try to disappear at ``pill parade time.'' That's when protective custody inmates are taken to the unit where medication is dispensed -- such as happened last Thursday.

``At this time of year it's dark and people can't see them,'' said McLaughlin.

``They go on a `cornfield TA (temporary absence).''' The expression, commonly used by Burtch staff, refers referring to the sudden disappearance of inmates into the cornfields that surround the facility near Oakland.

``They're always caught, usually very quickly. It's only a matter of time. Some just turn themselves in.''

McLaughlin was not surprised that police believe the escapees had arranged for a car to be at Burtch Road. ``Inmates are allowed to use the phone,'' he said. ``It's easy for them to call someone and have a car waiting.''

The solicitor general's office won't reveal the inmate status of the three escapees nor the nature of their criminal records, citing privacy legislation.

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Youth Crime

What ever happened to these two young kids? What prompted them to go on crime sprees? Provincial correctional officers that read this will certainly recognize the names of Skedden and Trotter - they have dealt with them in the past. Actually, they have seen them grow up as they were incarcerated time after time.

At age 38, Skedden has reached the end of the line, thanks to a criminal record that includes 37 convictions, many related to sex and violence.

Adam Trotter was in jail at 14, a killer at 16. Experts fear Trotter, now 22, will not be able to change when he's released in 2003.

The Hamilton Spectator has a special report on these two - maybe reading it you can figure why youth sometimes turns to crime.

Full Story

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No tracking device for pedophile, judge rules

By Nancy Carr

Convicted molester Peter Whitmore would have been first to wear bracelet

An Ontario judge refused a request today for convicted pedophile Peter Whitmore to wear a monitoring bracelet, noting the technology wasn't good enough yet.

"What the Crown applied for was an application to know where Peter Whitmore was 24-7, and the judge said the best that technology will do at present time is tell you where he's not," said Whitmore's lawyer, Daniel Brodsky.

Justice Patrick Sheppard noted that even his car came equipped with a more sophisticated locating device than the one available to track convicts, Brodsky said.

"(Whitmore) is utterly delighted at the ruling because it's a scathing indictment of both the Ministry of Corrections and the probation service," Brodsky said.

Had Sheppard granted the Crown's application, Whitmore would have been the first person in Ontario to wear an electronic monitor.

The Ministry of Correctional Services is planning to expand its electronic monitoring program, possibly including Global Positioning Systems in its arsenal, said ministry spokesperson Julia Noonan.

However, she couldn't say how the Whitmore ruling would affect the speed at which the new programs are implemented.

"Certainly the ministry is looking into the different types of technology and has plans to expand the current capacity but I can't say specifically if an individual's case would have any bearing on how the process is carried out," Noonan said.

Whitmore currently has what his lawyer called "the most flexible term of probation I've ever seen," whereby he can't leave home between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.

"But he can be excused from the curfew if his probation officer gives her express permission," Brodsky said.

"As he builds up a good track record she'll make (his probation) more flexible."

Whitmore was convicted in 1993 and 1995 for sexual offences, including the abduction, confinement and sexual assault of an eight-year-old boy and sexual interference of a nine-year-old boy.

Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day took aim at federal parole and corrections policies last year, blaming them for Whitmore's release after he was found in a hotel room in November 2000 with a 13-year-old boy.

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No cyber-bracelet for pedophile

But judge insists Whitmore must stick to curfew

By SAM PAZZANO -- Toronto Sun
Pedophile Peter Whitmore has been spared being shackled with an electronic monitoring bracelet but a judge has retained his 12-hour curfew.

Justice Patrick Sheppard said yesterday that Whitmore, 31, while a "high risk" to reoffend, does not have to wear a monitoring device.

Sheppard said even his car came equipped with a more sophisticated locating device than the one available. He said when a global positioning system is available for monitoring parolees, the Crown can renew its application.

The judge said the monitoring system proposed by the Crown would show authorities when Whitmore leaves home "but doesn't tell police where Whitmore is."

Sheppard agreed with Crown attorney Robin Flumerfelt's request to maintain Whitmore's 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.


At the same time, the judge slammed the corrections system's failure to give Whitmore the full sex offender treatment program during his eight months behind bars.

He blamed "bureaucratic slowness, resources constraints and lack of co-operation" within the correctional system.

"It was a scathing indictment of all the things that were left to the last minute in this case," Whitmore's lawyer, Daniel Brodsky, said outside court.

"There were a lot of screw-ups in this case. Why wait until the last day before Mr. Whitmore's release (last Nov. 10) before you start thinking about (sex-drive reducing) drug therapy?

"If this is what happens in one of the most high-profile cases in Ontario, what happens in the ordinary cases?"

Whitmore was convicted in 1993 and 1995 of sexual offences, including the abduction, confinement and sexual assault of a boy, 8, and sexual interference of a boy, 9.

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Sampson rips parole system over cop's murder

By DAVID GAMBLE -- Sun Media

OTTAWA -- The gunning down of a Manitoba Mountie is one more reason the federal government should pull the plug on its early-release program for prisoners, says Ontario Correctional Services Minister Rob Sampson.

But an official for federal Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay accused the Ontario minister of "crass" political exploitation of the tragedy, noting Sampson's attack came the day after Const. Dennis Strongquill's funeral.


"The Mike Harris government is calling on you once again to do the right thing and repeal the statutory release law, or the discount law as it is known to criminals," Sampson said in a letter to Ottawa.

The letter was addressed to MacAulay and Justice Minister Anne McLellan.

Sampson called on the federal government to keep violent criminals beyond two-thirds of their sentence and stop "discounting" sentences and "put the rights of law-abiding citizens above those of criminals."

Two brothers suspected in Strongquill's shooting in Russell, Man., last week were wanted for parole violations. One was later killed in a shootout with police.

Sampson insisted the federal government has a "quota" on parolees that it tries to release each year.


MacAulay's spokesman, Dan Brien, expressed disgust over Sampson's outburst.

"It's crass," Brien said. "He's trying to score political points when the police community is still mourning."

Brien said Sampson did not raise his concerns at two recent federal-provincial meetings.

Former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day echoed Sampson's concerns.

"Parole is a privilege that should be earned. It is not a right that should be demanded."

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Insane killer free on pass

But Penetang community not told of release

By BRETT CLARKSON -- Toronto Sun

Residents of Penetanguishene don't know it, but Victor Ernest Hoffman -- a paranoid schizophrenic who murdered nine people -- has been granted supervised access to their town.

Hoffman shot dead nine members of the Peterson family of Shell Lake, Sask., in August 1967, after lapsing into a crazed state in which the devil apparently urged him to kill at will.

He was found not guilty by reason of insanity in January 1968 and has been confined to the Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene ever since.


Conditions of his day release oblige the hospital to notify police, but there's no requirement that the community be notified.

"It certainly is something I will ask a few questions of at the next police services board meeting," Penetang Mayor Anita Dubeau said after learning from The Sun of Hoffman's passes.

Hoffman's day-pass conditions are decided upon by the Ontario Review Board, an independent quasi-judicial body that monitors the status of those found not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder, or who are unfit to stand trial.

The ORB says in order not to breach doctor-patient confidentiality it doesn't make public its reasons for deeming a patient eligible for passes or other privileges.

Edmonton-based author and former journalist Peter Tadman is disappointed over Hoffman's new access to the community, especially after spending two days with him in September to update his 1992 book, Shell Lake Massacre, which has just been shipped to book stores across Canada.

He said he got a chilling glimpse into a "highly troubled" man who is obviously "suffering from severe mental illness."

Tadman quotes Hoffman as saying: "I go downtown, sometimes to garage sales. At one place there was a nice, sexy girl wearing a short skirt. Her skirt was way too short. I don't know if she was wearing panties, it looked that way ...

"Looking at any kind of woman could disturb a man.

"The safest sex is no sex. Every girl has disease. When you get close to girls they have a smell like a snake."

Dubeau, who serves on the health centre's community advisory board, said Hoffman's history concerns her.

"It just really bothers me to think that if he still has a severe problem, why in God's name would they release him to the community?" she said yesterday.

The ORB has ordered that Hoffman be supervised at all times, except for times when his privacy would be violated.

"If they go to the mall shopping for pants, he can go to the change room on his own," explained Gord Haugh, press secretary to provincial Health Minister Tony Clement.

Because Hoffman was found guilty by reason of insanity, his case came under the jurisdiction of the provincial health ministry.

His day trips are confined to the towns of Penetanguishene, Port McNicol and Midland, although he can travel within a 300-km radius of Penetang on hospital-organized field trips. Tadman said Hoffman doesn't feel guilt over the murders.

"I don't feel guilt, I feel shame. I've got to live with that shame for the rest of my life. There was a tall man in my door that morning, I see him here; it seems like a dream or a nightmare," the author quotes Hoffman as saying in September.


"After his arrest 34 years earlier, Victor told police that he fought with the devil, and referred to his tormentor as being tall, black and having no genitals," Tadman said.

"As he told me now, he still sees that person there."

Tadman is also angry that officials didn't notify Phyllis Peterson, the only family member in the household to survive the killings.

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Province's jails more violent

Boredom, lack of programs are blamed; Metro West is province's most dangerous

HAMILTON - Inmate assaults in provincial jails have been growing steadily over the past decade, and Hamilton's jail ranks among the most violent. The number of inmates charged with misconduct for assault rose by 41 per cent from 1991 to 2001, while the number of inmates remained relatively steady.

Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre had the third highest number of assault incidents among the more than 40 jails, according to documents obtained by The Spectator under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents also show that while the number of staff assaulted by inmates has fluctuated over the decade province-wide, the numbers were at their highest in the last three years.

Ministry of Corrections officials wouldn't offer a reason for the increase in attacks.

"I'm not going to speculate on the number of assaults,'' said the ministry's Gail Solomon. "I will just stress that the ministry continues to take every reasonable step to hold offenders accountable for their behaviour.''

Critics say overcrowding and a lack of support programs have made conditions so intolerable in jails that inmates take out their frustrations on each other and on guards.

"All the release valves have been removed for inmates,'' said Edward Almeida, president of the jail guards' union in Hamilton.

"All they do now is they stay in their cells. They don't have anything to blow off steam anymore. There's no programs anymore. There's no school. There's no gym... Now they're just beating on each other.''

He added that at the Hamilton jail, it's common for three inmates - two in bunks and one on the floor - to be locked into a cell the size of a bathroom for anywhere from 12 to 23 hours a day.

"You get in a room that size with two of your best friends and see how long it takes for you to get at each other's throats,'' he said. "I'd be killing my buddies.''

The ministry laid 3,213 misconducts for inmate on inmate assault in the 1991-92 fiscal year. That number increased gradually each year- except for a slight decrease in 1995-96 - to 4,528 in 2000-01.

That year, there were also 367 reports of staff being assaulted by inmates. During this period, the number of people incarcerated ranged from 7,381 in 1991 to 7,360 in 1999 (the latest year for which statistics are available), peaking at 7,778 in 1997.

In Hamilton, between Jan. 1, 1999 and Dec. 31, 2000, there were 219 incidents of inmate-on-inmate assault, the third highest number in the province. In 1997-98, there were 253. Metro Toronto West Detention Centre had the highest counts, with 364 in 1999-2000 and 344 in 1997-98.

In 1999-2000, there were 27 reports of inmate-on-staff assault in Hamilton, the sixth highest number in the province. In 1997-98, there were 36 - second only to Metro Toronto West.

Violence in provincial jails is significant because it creates a dangerous environment for people working there. It is also significant because inmates will be back in society after serving provincial sentences of two years less a day.

Liberal corrections critic Dave Levac says when inmates are crammed into cells without being given proper programs, they can't be effectively reintegrated into society upon release.

"We have deplorable conditions. When you stuff people into a small cell that's supposed to hold one person and you start putting three and four people in those cells, they don't act like human beings. They start acting like animals,'' he said.

"If you're going to cage them like an animal, treat them like an animal and stack them up high and long and then turn around and say `behave yourself when you get out' (into society), it's not going to work.''

The capacity of the Hamilton jail is rated sixth highest in Ontario, but critics have complained that the jail, originally designed for 200 inmates, is at times crammed with as many as 600 inmates.

Last fall, Hamilton East MPP Dominic Agostino requested a security audit of the jail following inmate revolts, but the ministry said it wasn't necessary.

Ministry spokesperson Karin-Dillabough said the assault numbers might appear high because the ministry has a strict policy of reporting all assaults - everything from a shove to a beating.

"We write up everything and we inform the police about everything... the end result is they're quite frequent,'' she said.

But Almedia said in fact, the reported numbers are low compared to what really goes on inside the jails because they are so understaffed they can't notice everything.

"When you have that many (inmates), it's hard to keep track of what's going on,''Jhe said. "It's tough for staff. You get a lot of burnout. You're constantly breaking up fights.''

Dillabough said the ministry is working hard to address the problem. Last May, they introduced a bill that could stiffen penalties against inmates caught committing assaults or violating other institution rules.

They also said they have been tackling problems with jail conditions since 1996 by closing or fixing up older jails and doing security upgrades, as they recently did in Hamilton. They are opening two new hi-tech superjails, one of which will be privately run.

But Levac said he expects assaults to increase in those facilities, not decrease, because of the emphasis on electronic surveillance over guards. "A video camera's not going to stop somebody from assaulting somebody,'' he said.

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