(This column was published in the North Shore News on May 31, 2000)

Giving convicts Internet access is wrong

By Leo Knight

THOSE of you who, on Saturday, spent your leisure moments listening to Peter Warren on CKNW, were treated to an interview with a woman named Priscilla Wilcox, who runs a Web site called "prison pen pals."  


What a load of BS dot com! Wilcox waxed philosophically about how these inmates running personal ads were regular people who "just made a mistake." Yeah and I'm the Crown Prince of Denmark.   


One of the prisoners on the Canadian section of the Web site is Steven Lee LeClair. This is the text of the nice little personal ad for anyone who is so neurotic they'd like to write to him:   




"I'm Steve, I'm 52 and I have 18 years in on a life 25 sentence. As you may imagine I have lots of time on my hands and I would love to spend some of that time corresponding with you. I'm a gregarious person and I am interested in many things. I'm in a minimum security institution in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia.   


"It's not a bad place but it would be a whole lot nicer if I had a pen pal to share my thoughts and feelings with. So let's hear from you."   


A "gregarious person" indeed.   


In 1980, LeClair, gregariously walked into the Palace Hotel, as it was then known, on West Hastings and shot five people in cold blood, killing three. Not satisfied with the bloody carnage there, he hijacked a cab at gunpoint and made the driver take him to the Richmond RCMP detachment. He then gregariously walked in to the front counter and as Constable Tom Agar walked over to ask if he could help him, LeClair opened fire, shooting Agar from point blank range. Agar never had a chance.   


But LeClair still wasn't finished. He began firing at another officer, Constable Wayne Hanniman, who was diving for cover behind a desk. Hanniman was hit in the thigh, but survived his wounds.   


LeClair then, not so gregariously, went outside and, with the gun dangling from his fingertip, surrendered to a corporal responding to the "shots fired" alert put out by the radio dispatcher. He didn't even have the decency to give that corporal the chance to rid society of his loathsome self. Final score: four dead, three wounded and this headcase is trolling for women on the Internet.   


I remember that night well. I observed at first hand the bloody chaos at the Palace Hotel. I was among the thousand-plus police officers standing in formation outside the church at Constable Agar's funeral. To this day, I can clearly see Agar's widow coming down the steps from the church, dressed in black and wearing a veil to conceal her tears, weeping visibly, shoulders shaking as she walked behind the flag-draped coffin, struggling to walk with two small children sobbing as they clung to her legs.   


Steven Lee LeClair is eligible for parole in six years. Realistically, there's probably little chance he will get out, given the nature of his crimes. But, in our warped sense of justice, he serves his time in a minimum-security institution that's "not a bad place." While he bides his time in Club Fed, he advertises on the Internet looking for female "pen pals."   


Wilcox is running her Web site as a business not out of the goodness of her heart. She charges inmates for their ads and is recruiting Web masters in other countries to expand her site. She may be a latter-day Elizabeth Fry for all I know. But to allow people like LeClair access to the Internet for the purpose of introducing him to neurotic women is wrong. As I write this, another trailer park tragedy is unfolding in the Interior.  


Don Faulkner, a convicted murderer out on parole less than 10 years after his conviction for killing his mother-in-law, has disappeared along with his girlfriend, Karen Miller. Police are fearing the worst and have issued a Canada wide warrant for his arrest. Evidently, he has made another of Wilcox's so-called "mistakes."   


Faulkner was sentenced to life in prison following his conviction in 1990. At the time he went AWOL, he was in a halfway house following the suspension of his parole in January. He'd been out for two years.   


There's certain inevitability to these types of stories. For some bizarre reason, otherwise rational women seem to be attracted to dangerous men. What they don't realize is that a leopard doesn't change his spots. Look at the case of poet Susan Musgrave and bank robber Stephen Reid.   


Musgrave started communicating with Reid while he was in prison after being a member of the so-called "Stopwatch Gang," a group of bank robbers who used to time their robberies to ensure they were gone before police could respond. Reid wrote a forgettable book in jail called Jackrabbit Parole.   


Once out, he was feted by the Vancouver Island intelligentsia who permanently reside with their collective heads in the ether.   


"What a success story," they bleated.   


But, just as sure as Carter has little liver pills, Reid soon returned to his former ways and began bingeing on heroin, marijuana and cocaine.  


He is now back where he belongs, in prison on an 18-year beef, after a frightening bank robbery and chase through Victoria streets. During the chase he was tossing indiscriminate shots at pursuing police.  


Musgrave's version of Tammy Wynette's Stand By Your Man is pathetic. Maybe she and Reid can collaborate on a sequel book. They could call it "Jackass Parole System." Perhaps they could send a copy to Priscilla Wilcox.





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