Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Similkameen Spotlight week of Feb. 13, 2006)

Rapists and Killers   In Our Cities   We’re Not Making This Up

  By John Martin

Stats Canada recently sent out a press release touting the success of a decade’s worth of alternatives to incarceration.  In addition to statutory release, early parole, and probation, the system has seen the emergence of a host of programs aimed at reducing prison populations.  Among these are conditional sentences, community supervision, house arrest, and granting two for one credit for time served while awaiting trial.

Corrections spokespersons and the previous federal government are clearly proud of emphasizing community-based programs while minimizing the use of incarceration.  The findings indicate that the number of adult Canadians in custody is at its lowest level since 1981.  These numbers are truly impressive and welcome.  Because as the experts keep telling us – prison doesn’t work.

But numbers only tell part of the story.  Let’s take a moment and meet some of these low risk and manageable offenders being supervised in our communities.

Let’s begin with Charles Herbert Coaster and Jonathon Matthew Kennedy.  After having been considered too dangerous for parole, they were both recently freed on statutory release to serve out the remainder of their sentences.  They’ve since been re-arrested in the January 6th shooting death of another man in Winnipeg’s North End.

Then we have Franklin Shane Dofer.  This lad, who has an extensive record for break and enter, robbery and rape, was arrested last summer for sexually assaulting an 89-year-old woman in her Nanaimo home.  Of course, he was on parole at the time.

Another sex offender, Michael William Gardiner, was released on statutory release only to sexually assault a Hamilton woman.  He also stabbed her thirteen times.  All while being supervised in the community.

Clifford Howdle was released on day parole from the Riverbend Correctional Institution in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Upon his release, he raped three women over a 36-hour period.  He had been serving time for sexually assaulting two other females.

In 2004 Charles Jamieson walked away from a halfway house in East Vancouver and allegedly raped five women over the next ten days.

Then there’s Trevor James Fontaine.  He was released part way through a five-year sentence for sexual assault and attempted murder.  This was not a good thing for a woman living in Vanderhoof.  Fontaine stabbed her in the neck.  She is now a quadriplegic.

And let’s not forget Eric Fish.  He’s the “unlikely to re-offend” fellow who walked way from a Vernon halfway house and beat 75-year-old Bill Abramenko to death during a home invasion.

Reducing prison populations may well be fiscally prudent.  It may also be a humane and compassionate ideal.  But it seems a number of citizens and their families are paying one helluva price for all this compassion.

Stephen Harper and his party have long talked about reforming the criminal justice system and clamping down on unearned early release and conditional sentences.

Minority government notwithstanding – they must deliver.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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