• 07/19/12 - - 13 Months For ‘Arrogance’

    - - 13 Months For ‘Arrogance’

    By Lee Steven Chapelle, Canadian Prison Consulting Inc: Rick Atkinson does not shy away from his past. He is an engaging, charismatic individual who possess’ a great deal of presence. A natural leader, while incarcerated Rick utilized his skill set to the fullest; advocating for others while proactively pursuing prisoner rights. A gifted communicator, he was also a force of reasonability and an extremely effective mediator throughout his years spent inside. 


    In recent years Rick has become a growing force in his community, dedicating himself to working with troubled youth. He is an expert in the field and passionate about his work. Throughout his years of crime and imprisonment Rick Atkinson gained specialized knowledge and expertise that he now puts to good use. Rick has shifted his focus and goals, dedicating himself to helping and working with young people within his community.  His efforts are geared predominantly towards anti-gang strategies and eradicating guns in our communities.


    I entered the Canadian penitentiary system in 1986 at eighteen years of age, pen placed to Collins Bay penitentiary. At the time it was a badge of honor to be going to Collins Bay, but also a terrifying prospect. Not only was it unfamiliar territory but it had a serious reputation; known as ‘gladiator school’.  On the load with me to Collins Bay from Millhaven Reception was Rick Atkinson’s Brother Dwayne. I had met both Atkinson brothers while dealing with our court cases in the West Detention Center in 86. That was then, this is now…


    Today, twenty-six years later much has changed. As for me, I completed my federal sentence of more than twenty-one years in 2009. Like Rick Atkinson, because of Rick Atkinson, and other strong influences/role models like him throughout the early years of my sentence, the last ten years of my sentence were spent working hard towards leaving crime and prison behind for good. I completed University courses, and worked tirelessly on Inmate Committees lobbying for prisoner rights. Advocating and mediating for inmate populations taught me much about my abilities and potential and with it came all important dignity, pride and self esteem.


    My belief that I could make a difference was rewarded in a similar manner to what is happening to Rick Atkinson today; the majority of the last two years of my sentence were spent incarcerated for parole violation(s). Thirteen months for ‘arrogance’ and an additional five months for deteriorating behavior.


    It was not always this way; in 1986 the type of efforts and work Rick Atkinson is making would have been embraced by the system.  However, the culture within CSC has shifted dramatically in the last twenty-five years, most noticeably over the past seven years. The focus in the system has shifted from preventative programs and a rehabilitative approach towards crime and punishment to an extremely punitive one. All too often, CSC today disregards the Constitution, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Criminal Code, the Corrections and Conditional Act (CCRA) and its Regulations when dealing with federal parolee’s.


    Sadly, Rick Atkinson is locked up today, without charge, for being self assured and confident in his abilities to make a difference in his community. Clearly his parole officer dislikes his high profile and is attempting to hide behind a vague interpretation (her own) of a standard parole condition to put him ‘back in his place’. I am passionate about both prisoner and human rights and sadly aware on a first hand basis how just how bad the abuse of power and accountability within the ranks of CSC has become due to the present climate within the Justice system.


    The truth is that the overwhelming majority of crimes/criminals, and even more importantly our communities, can and would benefit from working with rather than warehousing them. It is not soft, but rather showing strength to reach out, communicate, understand and reason.

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