By Jason Menard
With the Linda Shaw murder case drawing to a close, many are looking at it as a case of what’s wrong with our penal system. However, combined with this summer’s release of an infamous Canadian killer, perhaps the motivation to change the system – and a partial solution – is now at hand.
Last week, the name of Linda Shaw’s killer was released to the public. Shaw, a student at the University of Western Ontario, was found murdered near London on the side of the road, and the mystery went unsolved for 15 years. DNA linked the crime to a now-deceased offender, and the case goes on the books as solved. However, at a time where Shaw’s friends and family should be able to enjoy some closure on the incident, instead they are forced to deal with a slew of questions as to how the murderer – a two-time killer out on parole – was allowed to re-enter society and re-offend. Shaw’s killer served only 12 years.
Twelve years behind bars – just like another infamous Canadian, Karla Teale, who was released earlier this summer.
As Teale re-enters Canadian society somewhere in Quebec and tries to put her past behind us, many Canadians live in fear of if and when she will strike again. The Deal with the Devil got Teal out in 12, and now there are those that are wondering who will eventually pay the price. Here’s hoping that Teale has been rehabilitated, is able to move on with her life, and put the past behind her to become a functioning, contributing member of this society. Here’s hoping that she is able to live in this world free of whatever demons drove her to commit such horrible acts in the past.
However, Teale’s release is not without strings attached. She is under strict restrictions as to when and where she can go, how often she must report to the police, and with whom she can associate. She can’t even change her hair colour without notifying the authorities.
But while Teale may protest the restrictions placed upon her since her release based on the fact that they were not part of the originally plea bargain deal, the fact of the matter is that these strict restrictions should be the norm, not the exception in Canadian justice. Any violent offender in our society should not have the slate wiped completely clean once their jail time is served. The debt to society may have been paid behind bars, but interest upon the original principal is still owed – and that must be paid off for years after their release.
Our rights in our society are not to be taken for granted. They’re earned through our actions. When you choose to act in a way that runs counter to the accepted rules, norms, and values of the society, then you have by your own actions forfeited your claims to equality. By breaking society’s rules your actions imply that they have no domain over your life – so the attempt to reclaim them and use them as the foundation upon which to build your freedom is shaky at best.
Once you have committed a crime against society, you are no longer to the same freedoms that law-abiding citizens enjoy. You’ve proven that you can’t play our game, so don’t complain when we change the rules. You do not come out of jail with a slate wiped completely clean. Prison removes you from society for a time, with the idea that you can be rehabilitated to become a functioning member of society. But that doesn’t mean that you simply can walk out the prison gates and blend into society with no transition.
Teale’s restrictions are exactly what we need to do with all violent offenders. Criminals of this sort need to be strictly watched throughout their reintegration into our society. Yes, they should be allowed to enjoy certain freedoms – the right to live their lives, but that doesn’t mean they have the right to carte blanche. They forfeited that right of their own volition.
There are those who will look at the increased financial costs that this type of continued enforcement and monitoring would require and find them prohibitive. But terms and conditions of release similar to those applied to Teale would act as a deterrent to reoffending. Our current system, while not terrible, could be improved.
When it comes to the financial costs, concerns about those must be tempered with an examination of the human costs. No system is perfect, and those who are truly driven to commit a crime will do so no matter what deterrent is in place. However, if the knowledge that committing a crime will result in a lifetime of scrutiny and forfeiture of a significant amount of freedom that we currently take for granted, perhaps that will be enough to prevent just one murder.
And if you’re still not convinced of the need to invest more, simply ask Linda Shaw’s family today if the additional costs would have been worth the chance that Shaw’s killer would not have been able to reoffend.
It’s not to say that her killer wouldn’t have struck regardless of increased scrutiny. But he may not have, and that’s more of a chance than we have right now.
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