Most of Canada’s Incarcerated Dangerous Offenders Are in Medium-Security Prisons: Document

Most of Canada’s Incarcerated Dangerous Offenders Are in Medium-Security Prisons: Document
Convicted serial rapist and killer Paul Bernardo in a file photo. (The Canadian Press)

The number of prisoners classified as "dangerous offenders" who are jailed in medium-security prisons is five times that of maximum-security facilities, according to government data.

Of 736 dangerous offenders, there are 580 in medium security institutions, with 99 in maximum security, and 57 in minimum security, says information from the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) filed by the government in an Inquiry of Ministry on Sept. 18.

“A Dangerous Offender is an individual given an indeterminate or a determinate sentence on the basis of a particularly violent crime or pattern of serious violent offences where it is judged that the offender’s behaviour is unlikely to be inhibited by normal standards of behavioural restraint,” CSC said.

The information request was filed by Conservative MP Frank Caputo on June 19, who asked the CSC how many dangerous offenders were incarcerated in each of the three levels of prisons. Mr. Caputo also asked how many prisoners at medium-security prisons had committed multiple murders.

CSC said there are 239 dangerous offenders in medium-security prisons who have at least two counts of murder on their sentence.

The agency specified that the covered offences encompass the following: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, capital murder, capital murder of a person less than 18 years old, non-capital murder, and any break-and-enter offences where one of the murder offences listed previously was committed during the break-and-enter.

Bernardo Case

Mr. Caputo’s request follows the decision to transfer one of Canada’s most notorious offenders to a medium-security facility.

On May 29, Paul Bernardo, a serial rapist who murdered three women, was quietly transferred to a medium-security facility following a CSC decision.

He was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Sept. 1, 1995, for kidnapping, torturing, and murdering Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy in the 1990s. He was also convicted of sexual assault and manslaughter in the death of his 15-year-old sister-in-law, Tammy Homolka.

Mr. Bernardo was declared a dangerous offender on Nov. 3, 1995. He was moved to Millhaven Institution after serving 18 years at the Kingston Penitentiary maximum-security facility.

His transfer to a medium-security prison means he will be allowed to spend more time outside his jail cell.

“The Review Committee concluded that the decisions to reclassify this inmate to medium security and transfer him to La Macaza Institution were sound and followed all applicable laws and policies,” Anne Kelly, Canada’s correctional service commissioner, said during a July 20 press conference introducing the report.

The government says prisoners like Mr. Bernardo can be returned to a maximum-security prison at any time.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre pilloried the decision to transfer Mr. Bernardo to a medium-security prison and promised to be tougher on crime if elected.

“I commit today that when I am prime minister, I will adopt a law keeping all mass murderers just like Paul Bernardo in maximum-security penitentiaries where they can do no more harm and where they have no freedom to harm other people,” he said at a July 20 press conference.

“Paul Bernardo should leave prison in a box, when he’s dead. He should never be out of a maximum-security penitentiary. To allow it is an injustice to the victims and their families.”

Ms. Kelly stated that then-public safety minister Marco Mendicino’s office was apprised of the decision to transfer Mr. Bernardo in March, three months before the actual move occurred, and again in May after a date for the move had been set.

Mr. Mendicino called the transfer “shocking and incomprehensible,” and claimed his office did not notify him of the CSC’s decision concerning Mr. Bernardo.

Mr. Mendicino has since lost his post during the government’s cabinet shuffle this summer.