Little recourse when high-risk offenders released
Awareness key in preventing becoming a victim
By: By Megan Sarrazin
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013 06:00 am
When a high-risk offender is released back into the community, there is little recourse for the public, with community members left instead to keep a watchful eye and exercise common-sense safety practices.
High-risk offenders are believed to pose a threat to public safety, despite serving an often-long sentence behind bars.
St. Albert RCMP Cpl. Laurel Kading said concern is heightened when a high-risk offender is release from prison.
“Often when there’s a release like this, it stirs up a lot of anxiety in the community,” she said. “It’s important to exercise safety at all times, not just when someone’s been released.”
Kevin John Taylor, 49, was released earlier this month after serving a 12-year sentence for the sexual assault, kidnapping and unlawful confinement of an 11-year-old Sturgeon County girl in 2000.
The Edmonton Police Service issued a public warning stating that Taylor intends to live in Edmonton and is considered a high-risk offender with a tendency to commit violent, sexual acts against females.
In 2000, he gained access to an 11-year-old’s home when he posed as an interested buyer. He taped her hands, eyes and mouth before driving her to a remote field near Riviere Qui Barre where he sexually assaulted her.
Taylor received the maximum 10-year sentence for sexual assault and another 12 years for kidnapping, both to be served concurrently. He was also ordered to provide a DNA sample for the national databank and sex offender registry and has a lifetime firearm, ammunition and explosives prohibition.
This was his second prison sentence for sexual assault – he served three years in prison for a 1985 sexual assault against an 18-year-old Ontario woman.
Kading said law enforcement’s role is limited when the inmate has served the entirety of his sentence, as the individual is believed to have served his debt to society.
“Even if someone has a label of high-chance to reoffend doesn’t mean they do. We have to be careful here because in Canada of course, you’re innocent until proven guilty,” she said.
Michael Seredycz, Grant MacEwan University criminologist with a background in parole and probation, said it is difficult to predict an individual’s probability of reoffending, as it depends on a number of factors such as their background, treatment and lifestyle.
He said it is often reported that 67 per cent of offenders will be rearrested for a crime within three years following their release from prison.
“We’re generally talking about a chronic problem,” he said. “Somebody needs to assist them in breaking the cycle.”
The Parole Board of Canada’s 2010-11 performance report details that 27 per cent of offenders released from a federal prison returned to a cell within 10 to 15 years.
Six per cent of inmates granted full parole, to serve a portion of their sentence in the community, later returned to prison. This number tripled for inmates released on statutory release — most inmates are automatically granted statutory release after serving two-thirds of their sentence behind bars.
Inmates who were released into the community only after serving the entirety of their sentence behind bars were most likely to end up back in prison, at a rate of 24 per cent.
Taylor was denied statutory release during his Parole Board of Canada review in July 2012, as he was deemed a high risk to reoffend. He was instead released upon warrant expiry from a federal prison in central Alberta. The Edmonton Police Service’s Behavioural Assessment Unit is monitoring him in accordance with a court-ordered peace bond.
Peace bonds can include various conditions restricting where the individual lives, what treatment programs he must complete and whether he will be monitored electronically by law enforcement.
Peace bonds are typically one-year duration, but can be extended up to two years for individuals convicted of sexual offences against those less than 16 years of age. During this time, the individual will be under the watch of police.
Additional sanctions can be ordered at the time of sentencing, such as a lifelong dangerous-offender designation.
Taylor joins 68 other Albertans who are currently given high-risk offender designation.
Prior to an inmate’s release into the community after serving their custodial sentence, the Correctional Service of Canada and Parole Board of Canada assess their risk to society and alert law enforcement.
Law enforcement agencies will evaluate documents, such as records of institutional behaviour, psychiatric evaluations and parole reviews, to determine the individual’s risk to the community.
If the inmate is designated a high-risk offender, a public warning is issued and subsequently added to the government database found at www.solgps.alberta.ca.
There are currently 69 high-risk offenders listed on this site, dating back to 2003. A majority of these offenders, at 39, are believed to reside in the capital region with one believed to reside in St. Albert – Curtis Dale Hill is described as “predatory and opportunistic” and served 10 years behind bars for multiple armed robberies and various other violent offences.
The names, photos and circumstances behind high-risk offender designations are posted publicly on the site for at least one year.
Public Safety Canada’s annual report for 2011 shows a total of 46 dangerous offender designations handed out in Alberta since 1978, with 38 being active as of April 2011.
Most designations are imposed on individuals with at least one sexual offence. Nationally, 546 dangerous offender designations have been imposed.
Dangerous offenders can also face a long-term supervision order, which lasts up to 10 years and implements various conditions while living in the community.
Kading said in addition to exercising caution at all time, it is important to know that most victims of assault and sexual assault know the perpetrator.
“We need to balance (safety concerns) with not becoming so overly concerned about it that it interferes with how we live our lives,” she said.
Kading said Child Find Canada (www.childfind.ca) has many useful safety recommendations families should follow.
Seredycz said public notification and general awareness could help prevent people from becoming a victim of crime.
“I think that parents just need to be very aware of where their children are and they themselves need to be aware of their surroundings,” he said. “I think that’s very problematic today.”
He said more needs to be done to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment programs offered during incarceration, as well as the community resources available to individuals upon their release.
Treatment programs are often voluntary and don’t provide the inmates with all the tools they need for rehabilitation, he said, adding a lack of resources after release also contributes to the rate of recidivism.
“I think we need to find a way to ensure that … they know where to go when they need help, so if they think that they might reoffend, there’s places that they can go,” he said.
Inmates who enter the community after serving time behind bars face barriers such as unemployment and a need for further treatment. Adopting a continuing care model would assist these individuals in becoming contributing members of society.
“Most people will not recidivate if they have a job,” Seredycz said. “If they overcome that, there’s a higher likelihood that they’ll conform to the rest of the community’s rules.”
Maureen Collins, executive director of the John Howard Society of Edmonton, said although issuing public warnings about high-risk offenders has benefits, it is important to acknowledge other offenders could be in the community.
“Very often, we don’t even know who lives next door to us,” she said. “Even though our city and this province and our communities are relatively safe, we always need to be vigilant.”
She said this vigilance requires individuals to get to know their neighbours, be aware of their surroundings and report suspicious activity.
To prevent further crimes by inmates who are released, Collins said the most effective course is through gradual release. Re-integrating inmates into the community over a period of time through temporary absences, day parole, full parole and statutory release – all of which are facilitated by the Parole Board of Canada – will help put them on the path towards a non-criminal life.
“The worst thing, I think, is we can hold someone to warrant expiry date and pop them out in the community,” she said, adding this leaves them with little support.
Collins said giving inmates access to community-based treatment programs where they are monitored closely would help prevent future victims.
She said it is also important for the public to realize that the vast majority of inmates undergo treatment and access programs to help address the factors that landed them behind bars.
The John Howard Society is a not-for-profit organization that works to prevent crime and help people affected by crime.