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, June 16, 2010

Decision on Vince Li's supervised walks, explained by review board

A Manitoba review panel has released its reasons for granting Greyhound bus killer Vince Li daily walks on the grounds of the psychiatric hospital where he's being held.
The Criminal Code Review Board (CCRB) is the provincial body charged with conducting a yearly assessment into Li's treatment and detention.
Li, 41, has been in a maximum-security portion of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre since he was found not criminally responsible for the brutal killing of Tim McLean, 22.
McLean was killed on a bus while returning home to Winnipeg from Edmonton, where he had been working at a carnival. As the bus neared Portage La Prairie, Man., Li pulled a buck knife from his side and began stabbing McLean for no apparent reason. He also ate some of the body parts and cut off McLean's head.
Controversy erupted in late May when the CCRB approved a request from Li's doctor that he be granted escorted outdoor walks on the grounds of the hospital, which currently has no security fence around it.

Vigilantism possible: Crown

The Crown and McLean's family opposed granting Li any privileges, arguing that the risks he poses to the public are too great to manage.
Prosecutor Corrine Deegan also argued Li could face harm from people who may see him outside the hospital.

However, in a report released on Tuesday outlining the CCRB's decision, chairman John Stefaniuk wrote on behalf of the board that evidence given by Li's doctor showed he poses a low risk of escape or self-harm and he has been compliant with his treatment.
"The board is not prepared to accept the submission advanced by Ms. Deegan that absolutely no degree of risk is to be tolerated," Stefaniuk wrote.
"If that were the applicable standard … it would be difficult to imagine how any patients under the jurisdiction of this board would have any prospect of acquiring even modest liberties."
Li's outdoor walks, which will start at 15 minutes and increase incrementally to a maximum of one hour twice a day, will always be done in the company of two staff members, Stefaniuk stated.
The hospital is in the process of hiring two security officers, he wrote.
"It is our view that a sufficient level of safety is provided in ordering that Mr. Li be supervised by two staff members, at least one of whom is equipped with a two-way radio or cellphone," Stefaniuk stated.
These security provisions are the least restrictive in balancing the public's right to protection with Li's reintegration into society, the board said.

Appeal possible

The Crown is considering an appeal of the CCRB decision and has two weeks from Tuesday to file notice with the courts.
Manitoba Attorney General Andrew Swan has previously said that Li's walks will not begin until the hospital improves security.
Swan did not say whether security upgrades might include constructing a fence, hiring extra staff or other measures.
A link to the CCRB's reasons for granting Li escorted walks can be found at the top right of this story.

The headline of this story is biased, wrong and inflammatory. Li should not be labelled as a "bus killer" because "killer" implies that he had the intention to kill, which he did not. Change your headline CBC.

Technically, Li is not a criminal. He did not commit a crime in the eyes of the law. A crime consists of two elements: the guilty act and the guilty mind (intention). Li lacked intention. His actions were completely out of his conscious control, they were unintentional and therefore he lacks the mental element of a crime. Li should NOT be treated worse than a prisoner in jail, who get recreation time outdoors everyday! Li is mentally ill and is a victim of his mental disorder. Therefore, he deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. He deserves to have his basic human rights upheld. Denying him the right to go outside for fresh air and sunshine and "cruel and unusual punishment" and violates Li's Charter rights and human rights. Li needs treatment and going outside would be beneficial to his treatment. Confinement only creates further mental health problems such as depression. 

Allowing Li to have supervised walks, with two armed security guards, while under the influence of heavy anti-psychotic medications, will not pose a risk to anybody. He cannot just escape and even if he did, he would not get past the mental facility's perimeter, being supervised by two individuals. Clearly, the review board considered the public safety and determined that Li posed a minimal risk to the public's safety. We should trust their decision. These are doctors and experts who are knowledgeable and educated in their field of mental illness. They have treated Li and they know best.

The public demands deportation, imprisonment, execution and less rights for Li. But that is NOT Justice! That is REVENGE! Justice is fair, just and humane. It is justice that Li is receiving treatment and help for his mental illness. Anything less would be inhumane, uncivilized and just cruel. The public is too concerned with revenge. I have noticed new trend in our society regarding the treatment of those who break our laws.
Revenge. I think, as a society, we need to steer clear of this concept. It is a basic, animal response. I thought we were beyond this.
It's easy to give people what they want in this regard. It's just not the right thing to do. We need to not let our emotions take over and focus less on the actions committed by Li, because that is in the past. We need to focus on his treatment now. We need to think rationally, reasonably and logically... not emotionally. The public is ignorant, misinformed and lacks complete understanding about mental disorders. Educate yourselves!!
None of you understand the nature of mental illness, nor the fact that once treated successfully, there is a good chance that Mr. Li will be able to work and live safely with minimal supervision. Canada is a relatively civilized nation, where we TREAT the mentally ill. The public who calls for imprisonment, revenge and cruel punishments for the mentally ill.. I suggest you move to a third world country or Texas or many other nations whose barbarity towards the poor, mentally ill matches your beliefs.

From the Review Board Decisions Document:
It was recommended that these passes should start at a duration of 15 minutes per shift, gradually increasing to a maximum of one hour per shift.

Having also considered the evidence presented at Mr. Li’s first hearing, we are in no doubt that the substantial risk factors with respect to Mr. Li are: his major mental disorder and the psychotic symptoms he experiences when his mental condition seriously decompensates; his lack of insight into his illness and the need for treatment; his history of being non-compliant with prescribed treatment; his history of poor judgment; and his history of having exhibited dangerous behaviour when he has become psychotic, including actual physical harm and threats of significant violence.

We are of the opinion that without the continued, close supervision provided by detention in hospital, Mr. Li would be a significant risk to the safety of the public, and that neither an absolute discharge nor a discharge upon conditions would be appropriate.

We are of the opinion that Mr. Li should be confined to the locked ward at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, and that if he is to leave the locked ward, he must be escorted by two staff members, and, if it is necessary for him to leave the hospital, he must be escorted at all times by a peace officer.

While we must take into account the gravity of the index offence in making our decision, the prime consideration must be the four factors set out in the Criminal Code, viz.: the need to protect the public, the mental condition of the accused, the accused’s re-integration into society, and the other needs of the accused. In considering these factors we are bound by the evidence presented to us.

The evidence of Dr. Kremer was the only evidence before us as to Mr. Li’s current condition. Both in his report and in his oral evidence, Dr. Kremer expressed the opinion that, as Mr. Li’s antipsychotic medications took effect, he was able to gain some insight into the fact that he had a mental illness and that his delusional beliefs were a product
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of that illness. Dr. Kremer also reported that during Mr. Li’s time in the secure area of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, Mr. Li continued to evidence stability of mood, and that he did not represent any type of management problem. When questioned by the Board, Dr. Kremer expressed his opinion that Mr. Li’s risk of elopement was low and that Mr. Li did not express any desire to escape from custody. Dr. Kremer also gave evidence that Mr. Li had not been maintaining any suicidal thoughts, and, therefore, the risk of self-harm was low. Dr. Kremer’s evidence was that Mr. Li continued to report some level of auditory hallucinations over the last year, but that these were greatly reduced in frequency and intensity. In fact, according to Dr. Kremer, Mr. Li had reported only three incidents and the intensity of these reported incidents was so low that Mr. Li was unsure as to whether he was experiencing an auditory hallucination or whether it was his own thoughts.

Mr. Li has evidenced progressive improvement during his time in hospital; he has developed a heightened insight regarding the fact that he has an illness and that he requires treatment; there is no evidence that Mr. Li experiences any type of homicidal ideation, intention or plan; there has been a significant reduction in both perceptual abnormalities such as auditory hallucinations and delusional beliefs and Mr. Li represents a significantly lower risk to re-engage in violence as compared to when he was experiencing those symptoms intensively at the time of the offence; he has shown himself to be someone who responds to treatment with antipsychotics; he possesses a personal support system in the form of his ex-wife and his regular contact with family in China. 

We do not see any evidence that supports this assertion or that suggests that Mr. Li would be under any greater risk of harm or that he would be in receipt of any lesser degree of protection than any member of the public in general.

Based on Dr. Kremer’s evidence that Mr. Li poses a low risk of elopement, that there is a low risk of self-harm and that he has been entirely compliant with the directions of his treatment team and hospital staff, it is our view that a sufficient level of safety is provided in ordering that Mr. Li be supervised by two staff members, at least one of whom is equipped with a two-way radio or cell phone and who could then contact security staff or police in case any issue should arise.

passes start at fifteen minutes and increase incrementally to a maximum of one hour, twice daily; the treatment team is of the opinion that his condition is stable and that it would be appropriate and safe for him to leave the locked ward; while he is away from the locked ward on any supervised hospital grounds passes, he is to be escorted at all times on a two-to-one basis by two staff members who are equipped with either a two-way radio or a cell phone; security staff at the hospital are informed when each grounds pass is to occur.

I can't believe posters on here. Guys, the dude is ....WALKING...supervised. He'd get that if he was a hardened criminal on DEATH ROW in the states. Instead this guy has a mental illness and is anything from a hardened criminal.

For those advocating deportation, I would just like to point out that Li is a Canadian citizen, therefore deportation is extremely unlikely.

Handling immigration is extremely difficult and complex, given that we don't exactly have the luxury of being extremely selective. We need a relatively large number of immgrants annually (I think it's in the 150,000-200,000 range) just to offset the effects of an aging workforce.

This crime is not an immigration problem. To reduce it to that is just the kind of xenophobic rhetoric that tear us apart. This is one isolated incident of serious mental illness. This crime has nothing to do with the fact that he was Chinese and everything to do with the fact that a small percentage of human beings will have psychotic episodes and kill someone.

Deal with it.

A family lost a son in the most horrific way imaginable. Not out of malice, but insanity. The man responsible was quickly subdued and evaluated. He has been jailed and given psychiatric evaluation and on-going treatment.

The staff at the facililty where Vince Li is held are left holding the bag. How do you expect them to keep a human being incarcerated for years and years without having a daily routine that includes exercise and walks out-of-doors? Their unhappy task is to keep a large guy on his meds and in the best mental frame that they are able to achieve. They are not giving him unwarranted privileges. He is not being coddled or held unaccountable. He is being "walked" because it is necessary.

It's one thing to say that we should protect society from a repeat offense; quite another to deny the mentally ill the most basic of human rights based on the nature of a crime.

Good for the Board.

Shame on the crown for whipping up irrational public sentiments and targeting a clearly mentally ill person.

I feel very sorry for the family of the deceased, but must say I do not respect the way they seem to want pure revenge on this man. Not only was he suffering from a mental illness, he was suffering from one SO SEVERE that he met the legal test of insanity! Do you know how many seriously mentally ill people do not make that test? Still, I cannot imagine what they have gone through.

Mental illness patients already deal with enough stigma and discrimination; they don't need more by warehousing.

The optimal solution for BOTH public perception of safety and for Vince Li's recovery is to have human security and a nurse outside to monitor behaviour. This also respects the free rights of other mental illness patients who do not deserve to be stigmatized or discriminated against either inside the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, at other Centres, or living in the community.

The profound and seeming wilful ignorance and stupidity espoused here in these comments embarrass and disappoint me as a human being. In particular, those demanding Li's death (whether by capital punishment or some sort of state endorsed torture) should be educated on the nature of mental illness, not to mention the intricacies of our legal system, where Mr. Li was found to be not criminally responsible.

The guy is dealing with debilitating (and probably previously untreated) mental illness. He's getting professional help every step of the way. A walk in the fresh air will probably do him a world of good. And yes, perhaps someday he might find a decent role in society if we let him.

If we didn't want to help him, why did we send him for treatment?

"Not criminally responsible? What kind of country is this?"
a civilised one. if that offends your fascist sensibilities, may i suggest you move to texas, or israel, or any of a plethora of other nations whose barbarity towards the poor, and the mentallly ill matches your beliefs. they ain't hard to find. just go to the UN website and pick out the countries with the worst human rights records. i'm sure you'll find one to fall in love with.

None of you understand the nature of mental illness, nor the fact that once treated successfully, there is a good chance that Mr. Li will be able to work and live safely with minimal supervision. The justice system recognizes that severe mental illness involving psychosis means that a man is not able to judge what is in front of him, or make evaluations of the situation with any relation to reality. What is really a problem here is the mental health system that didn't recognize when he began decompensating and take action to contain him before the tragic death of Mr. McLean.

If he is well medicated, with two staff, it is very unlikely that he will spring for freedom - he is not like a life criminal who thinks clearly that they are above the law. He is a wounded human being who is in treatment to rebalance his neurochemistry.

Stop living in fear and learn something people.

I am appalled at the lack of understanding (and by understand I don't mean any of that liberal bleeding heart crap I mean actually looking into the issue and understanding what the issues are) on this comment post!

I'm surprised that nobody has suggested reintroducing the death penalty for this man.

Yes it was a horrible crime and the man is obviously disturbed (you don't do what he did sane) but you have to give our parole boards and mental institutions some credit - do you honestly think that these well-educated professional people would release even a potentially dangerous criminal into the public?

I cannot believe that this is still a story. Shame on anyone who reports about this and shame on anyone who would deny a mentally ill person A WALK. Get some compassion and journalists GET SOME ETHICS, stop pandering! Disgusting.

The compassion shown this mentally ill person here is underwhelming.
He is mentally ill people.....yes I agree he took a life and should be punished but is there NO room for any understanding at all??? Jeesh

"Why does our Legal System? find it so difficult to actually punish criminals?"

Because our justice (not legal) system is designed around a principal of rehabilitation, not punishment. This is the case in ALL westernized countries, except maybe in parts of the USA.

Systems based on the premise of punishing the criminal have been shown time and time again all around the world to be far less effective, and far more expensive.

This story sure brings out the foaming at the mouth crowd.

The man has a mental illness, was found not criminally responsible, and is being detained and treated.

He is being allowed a short, supervised walk on the grounds of the facility.

People really need to get a grip.

Apparently, we as a society don’t actually believe that mental illness is an illness. We see it more as a choice for which we need to punish the hell out of a guy. Granted Mr Li’s illness is rather extreme and sickening when manifest as it did in Tim Maclean’s case but some of these posts are like saying we should just let em die or haven’t they cost us enough to the ill and the families of those with expensive-to-treat cancer or other severe illness. Maybe we should just close the hospitals and quit research into all severe illness. It was after all the person’s own fault for getting MS, or Cancer, etc. Obviously it wasn’t their fault for getting an illness but I doubt it was Mr Li’s fault for getting his.

I feel pity and sorrow for the Maclean family I also feel pity for Mr Li and his family. They still have to deal with the guilt, condemnation and stigma that comes with this, and like losing a loved one, that too will never go away. Mr Li and his family are condemned for life to deal with this crime and his mental illness. For the safety of society and Mr Li, he will probably need to be incarcerated or kept very tightly watched in a mental institution for the rest of his life.

Do we protect society? Yes of course but to treat Mr Li as a piece of excrement? You may as well run around the palliative care or cancer care wings of your local hospital telling all the families and the ill that they are worthless to society and should be shipped off to die at our earliest (and least expensive) convenience.

Interesting how the value of the dollar changes when the illness, physical or mental, and the treatment needed are in our own homes.

A little grace in our attitudes may be helpful.

Yup, go ahead and yell “bleeding heart” here if you need to and haven't yet.

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