Once again, our prison system fails. And this time it’s the victims of crime who suffer

TheGlobeandMail.com – Opinion/Editorials
Nov. 27, 2016.   Editorial

David Spencer Adams is not a model citizen. The 22-year-old pleaded guilty in Edmonton earlier this month to multiple charges related to his use of the Internet to lure girls aged 13 to 15 into having intercourse with him. In one case, he used intimate photos of a victim to blackmail her.

And yet our society is now obliged to show him leniency. Mr. Adams was beaten up in prison before his conviction by at least one guard and by fellow inmates. Last week, a judge sentenced him to 12 years for his crimes, but then cut the time in half, due to the injustices Mr. Adams endured while in the state’s custody.

Canadians will react to this with justified anger. But they should be sure to direct their anger toward the right people. Don’t blame the judge.

As Justice Terry Clackson said in his ruling, there is a “notion that prisoners have no rights and deserve whatever ill treatment they may suffer.” But, he added, “criminals are still people entitled to basic human rights, and the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms] extends into that environment the same way it extends into all environments.”

Exactly. The failure to protect inmates is directly connected to the mistreatment of hundreds of Canadians kept in solitary confinement for months and years on end. The recent example of Adam Capay, who has been in solitary for more than four years awaiting trial, is a symptom of the disease identified by Justice Clackson.

The blame for these miscarriages should be aimed directly at those responsible for Canada’s federal and provincial prisons; that is, the politicians who have for too long failed to find the courage – and the money – to fix a difficult problem.

The same failure of courage that caused Mr. Capay such harm has now robbed Mr. Adams’s victims, and their families, and Canadian society at large, of the justice that should have come from seeing a predator put behind bars for an appropriate sentence.

When a prison fails to keep peace, order and good government inside, and fails to rehabilitate offenders, it hurts both inmates and society. And when criminals are ordered released early, not for good behaviour but as a form of compensation for the state’s bad behaviour, the justice system fails crime’s victims. Something is very wrong with this picture.

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1 Comment

  1. After reading the editorial entitled “once again, our prison system fails. And this time it’s the victims of the crime who suffer” is simply stated. A couple of things came to mind, why and how does this happen? David Spencer Adams is a 22-year-old sex predator that preyed on young girls through the internet to perform lewd acts with him. Whether you are offended by his actions or not you have to agree with the judge’s decision. I applaud Justice Clackson for his ruling in upholding criminals rights under the Charter (rights and freedom) while being held in custody. Although Spencer committed a heinous crime, he still is a human being and deserves to be treated in a fair manner. The state did not live up to their standards while he was being held in custody. They failed miserably by allowing a guard and other fellow inmates to beat him before his conviction. Some readers would say that he got what he deserved for his crimes, while others like me would agree that he should be treated with respect and dignity while in jail.

    Although Spencer Adam’s case is not isolated, Justice Clackson nailed it when he identified the case of Adam Capay who was locked in solitary confinement for four years pending his trial. Criminals are not being brought to justice swiftly and judges are finding it difficult to restore what little integrity is left in the failing justice system by handing out reduced sentencing. How much longer can this problem go unnoticed? Reducing sentences is becoming the norm due to the mistreatment that prisoners receive while in custody. Our mindset is that there is nothing flawed with the way our system handles inmates.Justice Clackson’s decision in reducing Spencer Adam’s sentence was justified due to the grave injustices he suffered. How many more cases like this will it take for us to realize that something needs to be drastically changed? It was well stated that it is the criminals who benefit from this system and not the victims or their families that they caused tremendous pain and harm. It’s the politicians who are the real culprits; it’s time for them to accept the blame for a system that is broken. When a prison system fails to keep peace and order or fails to rehabilitate prisoners nobody wins. I believe that when a person commits a crime, gets convicted and sentenced to jail their rehabilitation should allow them to become a better person and become a more productive member of society.

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