Opinions

Canada’s judicial system isn’t responsible with violent offenders

Conversations often take an awkward turn when the subject of hobbies and interests comes up and I lead with, “I love serial killers and murder.” I should probably learn to phrase that better, because what I mean is, murderers fascinate me. The way their mind works, the reason they snap, their childhoods, how did they become such monsters?
How can we distinguish between those not criminally responsible (NCR) and those responsible? How do we ensure public safety upon reintroduction into society, but at the same time, make sure victims’ families’ feel as though justice was served?
“He can get out, and not have a criminal record, that’s messed up,” said Kelly Hunter, whose son Josh was one of five of Matthew de Grood’s victims, in the infamous Brentwood five stabbing, Calgary’s worst mass murder that occurred on April 15, 2014.
Hunter said her family feels as though justice wasn’t served when de Grood was deemed NCR in May 2016. At the very least, they want de Grood considered “high risk.”
The Harper government, in 2013, implemented a high-risk category for NCR cases because they felt that without it the public and victim’s families weren’t properly protected by the system. High-risk offenders’ cases are reviewed less frequently; they can be held for up to three years before a judge and mental health professionals review their progress, compared to every year if deemed not high risk.
“In my mind, if you kill five people, you go to jail and you’ll never get out. If you’re mentally ill, you go to a facility and you never get out. Why wouldn’t it go that way,” said Hunter.
“Obviously the legal system hasn’t figured that out yet.”
However, critics of the high-risk category say that it views mentally ill offenders as criminals that deserve to be punished, rather than patients who need treatment.
More recently, Bogdan Radulescu was charged with, attempted murder, aggravated sexual assault, uttering threats, choking to overcome and two counts of aggravated assault. The 32-year-old allegedly attacked two women at businesses located on Macleod Trail near Southland Drive on the morning of Oct. 28.
In an interview with CBC, Radulescu’s father, Mihai Radulescu, discussed his son’s schizophrenia diagnosis and the struggle the family has endured with seeking help for their son who just days before the attack was deemed mentally fit by a court psychiatrist.
“I have called police on him many times,” Mihai Radulescu told CBC “they take him to the hospital, but he is back only a few hours later.”
It seems possible that due to the possibility of being declared NCR, violent offenders like Radulescu aren’t deterred enough by our judicial process.
Violent crime can be indicative of some sort of mental illness so perhaps instead of labelling perpetrators as NCR, mental health just needs to take more precedence in our penal system.
Punishment should begin once a perpetrator accepts his role in a crime, which can be accomplished through counselling and therapy to address what is really going on. This should be true for all those who are mentally ill and commit violent crimes.
In 2009 stats released by the Correctional Service of Canada, it was estimated more than one in 10 male inmates were mentally ill and one in three female inmates. Estimates suggest that 26 per cent of United States federal inmates suffer from at least one mental illness, compared to 9 per cent of the general population, according to a 2014 article in the American Journal of Public Health.
Doctor Gary Chaimowitz, a board member of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, told The Globe and Mail that Canada’s penal system doesn’t have the resources or the space to address this basic need of mental healthcare.
Offenders with mental illnesses end up in segregation units without proper care.
Mental rehabilitation prior to a punitive sentence would not only benefit perpetrators, whether mentally ill or not, but families of victims, such as Hunter’s, would also feel as though more justice was served.
With proper mental health treatment, which should be a basic human right, mentally-ill offenders are less likely to re-offend as suggested by an article published in The Journal of Psychiatry and Law titled: A Profile of Mentally Ill Offenders and Their Adjustment in the Community, which is just an added bonus.

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