Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Yuletide Bandit -- Michael Syrnyk

I just finished reading Mike McIntyre's novel called The Yuletide Bandit today, about a man named Michael Syrnyk, who went on a 7 year crime spree, involving robberies, break ins and a hostage taking which resulted in him shooting 3 people, including 2 police officers. Michael came from a difficult background, due to family violence as a child resulting in his parents divorcing, his grandmother passing away when he was young and his mother passing away from cancer later in his life. He struggled with mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety and felt powerless in his life. He had difficulty connecting with and relating to others, which is why he didn't like the idea of conventional work and he resorted to a criminal lifestyle of robberies. He used the money he made to indulge in drugs and alcohol, pay for sex at massage parlours, which were both an attempt to relieve his symptoms of anxiety and depression and suicidal thoughts he was experiencing. It was a financial means to life for Syrnyk, due to the fact that he found conventional work and dealing with the public, intolerable. 

Syrnyk was always shy and was lonely most of his life. He isolated himself socially from others because he had difficulty relating to and connecting with others. He felt guilty after committing a crime, and suffered from thoughts  of death and emptiness. He also struggled with managing his thoughts and emotions, which is also what led him to substance abuse. He didn't know how to cope with life's challenges, was dissatisfied with his life, and felt a sense of self-loathing and apathy. He had struggled with anxiety, social anxiety, and depression most of his life. 

He was sentenced to 23 years prison by a Judge in December 2002. The defence suggested 15 years prison. Personally, I think 23 years was far too harsh, as Syrnyk has great potential to be rehabilitated. I would have supported between 12 and 15 years. In prison, I think he could benefit from violence prevention programs where he can learn communication skills and better social skills, substance abuse programs, medications for depression and counseling by a psychologist for his social anxiety, self esteem and confidence along with education and employment assistance and training. 

Aggravating Circumstances
Mitigating Circumstances
15 armed robberies, 9 armoured car heists, 8 break ins, shot 3 people (including 2 police officers), one hostage taking
Pleaded guilty to 35 charges
Used violence in robberies
Expressed deep remorse and cooperated with police
Used weapons to threaten victims
Strong family support system
Crimes were planned and pre-meditated
Good character as described by family and friends (loving, caring, compassionate, generous, shy, lonely, gentle, considerate)
Stole $300,000 +
History of mental health issues (anxiety, social anxiety, self-esteem, depression, suicidal thoughts, felt powerless in his life, difficulty relating and connecting to others)

Substance abuse of ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine, morphine, LSD

Family violence/divorce likely led to mental health problems

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