Editorial: Corrections system requires changes

The transfer of convicted serial killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo from a maximum security prison to a medium security prison this spring has rightfully angered Canadians from all over, especially the families of his many victims. Bernardo is considered to be one of the most notorious criminal in Canadian history.

The Correctional Service of Canada moved Bernardo from Millhaven Institution, to a medium security facility in La Macaza, QC in May. The families of the victims did not learn of the transfer until after it happened. A review of the transfer by CSC found that the move was a sound decision made by the service based on his conduct in prison. Like many Canadians across the country, The Leader disagrees with this decision. In fact, this decision made by the CSC highlights a need for changes to the corrections system and who designates what security level is needed.

Bernardo was sentenced to an indeterminate life sentence, meaning he should remain in prison for the rest of his life. That can be changed, however, to a determinate sentence if a court allows. The CSC report says he is integrated into the general population of the prison. That alone is disturbing. The report noted that there are “no longer grounds to warrant a maximum security classification.” Granted, this is within the confines of a prison: but this is still a convicted serial killer and serial rapist – a person who killed three young women and raped at least 14 women. A Parole Board of Canada psychiatric report of Bernardo described him as a “remorseless killer”. How he qualifies to be allowed to integrate with other prisoners is astonishing and may be extremely risky.

Canada’s corrections system has the ultimate goal of rehabilitating those who commit crimes who can be rehabilitated. There is a whole component to prison that includes therapy, education, training, and counselling to help those found guilty of a crime, who are willing to benefit from the system, to reform. There are many success stories of those who have turned their lives around after prison.

Where our corrections and justice systems need to be changed is to better separate those with the potential of reform, from those who clearly have no desire to do so. For dangerous offenders, like Bernardo, where there are clinical reports of not showing remorse, where the chances of rehabilitation are less than zero, sentencing in court should include the requirement of what security level of prison should be served. And it should take a court action, not a government bureaucrat, to change that security designation.

Bernardo has received far more attention during his time in prison than he deserves. His transfer to a lower-security prison re-victimized the families who his heinous crimes have affected the most. Shame on the officials at the CSC for even considering the rights of the guilty over the rights of his victims and their families.

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