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.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Woman violates conditional sentence, must serve remaining time in jail

A Manitoba woman is headed to jail after repeated violations of her conditional sentence ended in a dangerous confrontation with RCMP.

Lillian Orvis was initially given a nine-month period to be served in the community last November after pleading guilty to trafficking marijuana on her home reserve of Bloodvein First Nation. She was re-arrested weeks later for breaching several terms of the sentence but convinced provincial court Judge Michel Chartier to give her one final shot at freedom, rather than suspend the rest of her conditional penalty.
His generosity and tolerance backfired.

RCMP responding to an anonymous tip found Orvis driving drunk through the community in March, when she was supposed to be under 24-hour house arrest and not consuming any alcohol. There were several other people in the car, including her 19-year-old son who was wanted for a hit-and-run accident earlier that day.
Orvis briefly pulled over, then sped away when police tried to arrest her. She narrowly missed running over the foot of one officer.
Police gave chase and followed Orvis to the Bloodvein airport, where she stopped her car and made a run for the forest. Two officers followed her footprints in the snow and found her hiding behind a tree, nearly a full kilometre into the woods.
Orvis began threatening the police and their families, armed herself with a broken tree branch and began punching the officers in the chest while shouting "I won't go down without a fight," court was told. Her son also emerged from hiding and began attacking police, who eventually overpowered both mother and son and got them in handcuffs.
Orvis was given a blood-alcohol test and found to be nearly twice the legal limit. Police charged her with impaired driving, flight from police officer, assaulting a police officer and several breaches of her conditional sentence.

Orvis appeared in court Friday seeking to be given yet another opportunity to succeed in the community. But Chartier wasn't convinced, saying her flagrant breaches must be punished. He noted her probation officer says she has shown an "inability and unwillingness" to comply with her court orders and the various programming and treatment options it provides.
"She has totally disregarded the conditional sentence order. This is a serious case of non-compliance," said Chartier. He reminded Orvis about the strong warning he'd given her months earlier when deciding not to send her to jail for her first set of breaches.
"It was made abundantly clear what the consequences of a further breach might be," he said. Chartier said giving her yet another opportunity would leave him "concerned the integrity of conditional sentence orders and public confidence in the administration of justice would be eroded."
Chartier has now ordered Orvis to remain behind bars until her conditional sentence expires in late August. She must also still deal with the new criminal charges stemming from her latest incident.

I believe in second chances. This was one breach by the woman and she should have been given a second chance to succeed in the community. These breaches, consuming alcohol, and the fact that her son was wanted for a hit run, is a refection of deeper problems within this woman's family and ultimately, the community. If this woman lives on a reserve, I am almost positive they don't offer resources and/or alcohol/drug treatment, which is maybe why she isn't participating in that. 

I also wonder, has restorative or Aboriginal justice, which integrate Aboriginal cultures and traditions, healing, restoration and support circles, been considered as an option for this woman? Likely not. 

I feel that prison should only be reserved for the most dangerous and violent offenders. This woman is not one of them, in my opinion. She made a mistake by consuming alcohol. Everyone makes mistakes and she should be given another chance. How will prison solve this woman's family and community conflicts/problems? It likely will not. I think the Judge should have let her serve the remainder of her conditional sentence in the community and offer family counseling, substance abuse treatment (maybe even a residential place) and a healing circle involving the woman, her son and the police officers who she assaulted. This woman needs help, not prison.  

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