• 07/23/12 - - Accountability; a one way street?

    - - Accountability; a one way street?

    By Lee Steven Chapelle, Canadian Prison Consulting Inc:

    Rick Atkinson received a text from his parole officer telling him to come to the Toronto West Parole Office for an unscheduled ‘meeting’ at noon on Friday June 29th, 2012.  As is often the case for federal parolee’s, it was neither an invitation nor a request; but rather an order to drop whatever he was doing and report to the parole office immediately. There was no disclosure made as to the purpose of the meeting.


    This exemplifies the nature of the parolee parole officer relationship existent in Canada today and happens every day to federal parolee’s across the country. More often than not these type unexpected calls and texts end in a surprise urinalysis test. In Rick’s case, he has no history of substance abuse and knew that he was not heading in for a ‘piss test’. He was aware however, that he was not the ‘favorite’ parolee of the Toronto West Parole Office. A fact that had been made abundantly clear since his arrival from British Columbia last fall while on full parole.  The basis of the hard line approach taken by parole in Mr. Atkinson’s case is centered upon his history and the increasingly high profile work he does with high risk youth and anti-gang strategies within his community.   


    Upon arrival at the parole office the reason for the meeting was revealed to Mr. Atkinson. He had recently obtained employment painting a Mosque, through a teacher at the Mosque, and had shared this information with parole. For three hours the parole officer proceeded to question Rick extensively regarding his job, his workplace and the nature of his relationship with everyone and anyone involved in the painting project. Rick’s parole officer had ‘uncovered’ the fact that one of the other painters on the job site also possessed a stale criminal record. It was for this reason the meeting had been called.  


    Rick informed the parole office that during his two spent years on conditional release in British Columbia, prior to transferring back to Toronto, it had been made clear to him that the onus was placed on Rick himself to do his due diligence and assess his associations. His Toronto parole officer made it clear that she was not in agreement with the B.C parole officer’s ‘interpretation’ of the standard parole condition in question. A condition that applies to all federal parolee’s In Canada and reads as follows; “You are not to associate with anyone you know, or have reason to believe is involved with criminal activity”.  She proceeded to advise Mr. Atkinson that if he wanted to remain out on parole he would have to begin disclosing EVERYONE and ANYONE he came in contact with to his parole officer on a daily basis for the duration of his parole.  


    All through the meeting Rick Atkinson repeatedly stated that he had nothing to hide; pointing out that he had acted transparently throughout by disclosing his employment and pays to parole officials. In response to the Toronto West parole office’s insistence that he begin taking down, and reporting, the names of all the people he came in contact with each and every day, Rick was clear about his viewpoint on this matter; it was an unreasonable request. He was confident and without fear as he knew he had nothing to hide. A mistake as it turns out; three hours after the meeting began, the decision was made by the Toronto West parole office to suspend Rick Atkinson’s parole.


    His self assuredness in this scenario resulted in CSC citing a ‘deteriorating attitude’ as their grounds for suspension.  It has now been twenty-five days since that meeting and since Rick Atkinson was incarcerated. He is still locked up today. Presently in maximum security Kingston Penitentiary, not only without charge, but without a post-suspension report or any form of paper work at all from the authorities, in accordance with their own guidelines, ‘justifying’ the reason he was and still is incarcerated.  CSC needs to show accountability for their actions and for the unjust actions of their employee’s. Parole conditions set by the Parole Board of Canada should not be allowed to be open to interpretation from Province to Province, parole officer to parole officer.



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