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 2, 2010

Keep Li locked up, Conservatives demand

MANITOBA Tories want assurances the government will keep Vince Li under lock and key.
Li was found not criminally responsible for beheading a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus two years ago. He has been locked in a ward of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre.
But a doctor told a provincial review board Monday that Li is ready to receive brief supervised passes outside the ward for fresh air and recreation twice a day. The grounds, however, are not enclosed by a fence or barrier.
"You don't need a PhD and you don't need to be the minister of justice to know that this recommendation is wrong," Conservative justice critic Kelvin Goertzen said in the legislature Tuesday.
The Tories want Li sent to a secure facility in another province.
The review board is expected to give a written decision about Li's immediate future later this week. The Crown opposed the supervised outings on the mental health centre's unsecured grounds, saying they were "not appropriate."
Opposition Leader Hugh McFadyen said the province must make it clear to the review panel that the supervised outdoor passes are a threat to public safety and cannot occur. He said the province appoints review panel members and it can replace them if it's unhappy with their performance.
However, Justice Minister Andrew Swan said he cannot dictate terms to the review board, an independent body operating under federal law. And he accused the Opposition of "fear-mongering."
The board's decisions are based on rules set out in the criminal code, Swan said. "Our government cannot overrule what's contained in the criminal code of Canada," he said.
Dr. Steven Kraemer told the panel Monday that Li has made "significant" progress in the past year. He said Li has responded well to medication, listens well to staff and has attended all required programming and treatment. He also said Li is deemed a low risk to flee the facility.
Swan said Tuesday that the province expects the board to "make a decision that is consistent with the law."
An attorney general, he said, should not demand that a judge or tribunal or independent party come to a particular decision. "(That) is simply wrong and, more than that, it strikes at the very heart of the democratic system that we enjoy in this province and this country."

Push board to deny pass to Li, Tories tell province
Manitoba’s Opposition Tories suggested Tuesday the government should influence the Criminal Code Review Board in order to ensure Vince Li is denied escorted walkabouts outside the Selkirk Mental Health Centre.
The board presided over a hearing Monday during which Li’s psychiatrist recommended his patient be allowed twice-daily “ground passes” that would see him accompanied by two guards to an unenclosed, outdoor part of the facility’s grounds.
Li has been at the facility since March 2009, when he was found not criminally responsible for killing and beheading fellow passenger Tim McLean aboard a Greyhound bus in 2008.
The Criminal Code Review Board must review Li’s status annually, and its decision on Monday’s hearing is due shortly.
Justice Minister Andrew Swan said Tuesday the Crown opposes the doctor’s suggestion that Li be allowed to roam the grounds, even while supervised.
But Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen suggested Swan should go further and establish a policy that would provide a guideline to the board to deny any freedoms that aren’t “no risk” when it comes to NCR patients like Li who commit the most serious violent crimes. If the board’s decision went against such a policy, the members could be replaced, he suggested.
“They can revoke appointments if they’re unhappy with the decision,” McFadyen said. “The accountability ultimately rests in (the legislature) with elected officials.”
Swan called the suggestion “scary.”
“I’m not going to step in and tell an independent board what to do,” Swan said, noting he doesn’t have the power to do that anyway, as the board is governed by the federal Criminal Code.
Swan said the Crown could appeal the board’s decision if it is unhappy with the outcome.
Swan said he will not consider fencing in the facility’s grounds to enhance security for walkabouts that may be granted to Li or other patients. “It’s not a jail. It’s a mental health facility,” he said.

Based on Li`s progress so far and the fact that he is a low risk to escape, there is no reason to deny him the basic human right of supervised passes outside for sunshine and fresh air. He is legally not a criminal and should not be treated worse than a prisoner. We should not further punish and deprive those whose actions were unintended and irrational. Li did not understand the nature and consequences of actions at the time, due to his severe mental disorder. Denying him this right, would be inhumane and uncivilized. We need to treat the mentally ill with dignity and respect and humanely. I do not understand why this is such a big issue for the public. Its not like they are releasing Li! I am shocked and disgusted by the public`s ignorance and barbaric nature regarding mental illness, wanting to deport, imprison and even execute those who have mental illnesses and commit a crime. Li is a diagnosed schizophrenia found not guilty due to his mental condition. Having a supervised outing with guards is similar to prisoners getting yard access. Li does not pose a risk to anyone, by being allowed supervised walks in the yard. I do not believe he is dangerous to the general public while he is on his medications. He should be allowed access to sunlight, visits, etc. It is not Li`s fault that he is suffering from the disease of mental illness. McLean was a victim of the crime, but Li is a victim of the disorder. He was not mentally present when the act was committed, therefore, it is the correct decision to not hold him responsible. Even though Li knew after the attack, that what he had done was wrong simply demonstrates that he did suffer from a temporary psychotic episode. 

What is the goal of keeping him locked up forever? What will be the outcome? Putting people in caged environments, poor environments, "punishing" environments is not going to help him recover. What he did was terrible and it is a terrible tragedy for the family of the victim. Perhaps denying him the simple privilege of a 15 minute SUPERVISED walk will give him enough sense of being, will dehumanize him less, and help him maintain his mental health so to prevent another tragedy.

People do not act like human beings when we do not treat them like human beings. That is a huge problem with the penal and mental health systems in Canada right now (and around the world no doubt). We need to treat those with mental disorders, in a humane, dignified and respectful manner, to assist them in controlling their illness.

What harm could a 15 minute supervised walk do anyways? It will not pose any risk to the public.

The ferocity of many of the comments under this article underscores the necessity for better public education about mental illness.
My question is, where was Li`s 'support system' when he grew more psychotic and delusional? His family and church community knew he was 'off the rails' but no one got him back on his meds. or alerted authorities that he could be a danger to himself or others. These people are more to blame for their in-action than he.
No, Vince Li had no 'intention' of hurting anyone. This dreadful disease forced him to act in a way that is contrary to his nature. Now that he is able to reason again, he is absolutely horrified at what he has done and the pain he has caused.
He is every bit as much a victim as poor Tim Mclean. Yes, he needs to be monitered and watched for the rest of his life, but he deserves to be treated humanely like anyone else only be reserved for the likes of an 'intentional' killer.

Schizophrenics aren't dangerous, IF they are on their meds. Therefore one or two female staff members is enough to bring the person on supervised outings, if he takes off they phone the police and they track him down. It would take days if not weeks for his condition to get as bad as it was when he killed Tim McLean. Being allowed supervised passes outside, is not putting anybody at risk, as Li is not dangerous right now. Denying him that basic human right, would be inhumane and uncivilized.
People go WAY overboard on Vincent Li. Li didn't kill Tim McLean, his condition did. Li was not mentally present and was incapable of understanding the nature and consequences of his actions. His actions were not intended and were not rational. Therefore, he should be punished and deprived as if were a prisoner. He is mentally ill and needs to be treated with respect and dignity. Because Li has shown in the past that he may stop taking his meds, he has to be institutionalized to ensure that he takes his medication every day. That doesn't mean you need to lock him up in a hole for ever. He needs to have sunshine and fresh air, like any other human being.  Li is a victim of his disorder, just as McLean was a victim of the crime. They are both victims.

I wonder if you know the legal definition of murder? Murder is committed with premeditation, forethought and reason. Murder is deliberate and planned. None of these things were within Vince Li's possession at the time of the crime committed. He did not understand the nature or consequences of his actions, was not rational and his actions were unintended due to his mental disorder. He was not mentally present at the time of the crime. I agree he committed a horrific and gruesome crime, but it was not Li`s fault. If McLean`s mother is insisting on murder, then I am afraid she is describing incorrectly Li's state of mind. If she is insisting on engaging a valid debate on this issue, having to do with Li's incarceration and treatment and eventual release, and the passing of Tim's Law, then she should inform herself better or hire someone to do this heavy lifting for her. I agree it's a tough road for her after losing her son. Everyone here does. However, to see real societal change, you have to step up and get better informed on mental illness. Otherwise, Tim's Law doesn't have a chance. I agree there should be change.

I understand that to say Vince Li is also a victim of this crime sounds pretty bleeding heart(ish). The thing that has everyone so passionately angry is the method of the murder. I am not minimizing the horror of this event, I am only saying that Li did not chose to do that and would never have chosen such an action were it not for the huge disturbance in his brain.

In terms of 'an eye-for-an eye' method of justice, no, it's not being seen here. We instinctively believe someone should die for this crime and the pain and suffering it has caused to the family. No one is suggesting that he be allowed to walk freely in the community. However, since we are a humane society capable of intellectual reasoning we know that the mind is fragile and when circuitry goes haywire, some horrendous things can happen. But, Li is still a person, when medicated, who feels sorrow, deep regret and pain. He will be incarcerated for the rest of his life trying to come to terms with his actions. A walk outside occasionally is only humane. To deny him that right, would be inhumane and uncivilized. 

That's what people with no experience with mental illness have difficulty understanding. The judgements being made about Vince Li range from uncaring and irresponsible to cold-hearted murderer and worse. I just want to shake people and shout, "He wasn't aware of what he was doing!!" I hope the attitudes expressed here aren't representative of the general population. So many high-profile people have gone public with their mental illnesses over the last decade or two; I'd really hoped the stigma was being erased.

People who are not affected directly with mental illness struggle to understand it. They change the subject quickly, or they are full of advice that is usually well meaning but useless.
If my son had cancer, we would be treating it with everything we had, with the full support of society. But because he has a mental illness we are alone in our battle. Not only alone, but facing the scorn of ignorant un-informed people. The case with Mr Li is a difficult one. He will need a lifetime of support. I am not sure our society is equipped to provide it. He too will face this alone.

For heaven's sake. He's not being taken to the mall, he's going on the grounds with two attendents for 15 minutes. As the headline clearly states, he's just going outside the WARD. He remains in a locked-down mental health facility, which has housed many violent people with mental illnesses. The staff there can handle taking him outdoors for a few minutes. I presume his doctors would not put their staff and the other patients in a position where they would be at risk. Let these people do their jobs - they are not lawyers or cops, and if Li is able to handle the outdoors, it's an indication that they are doing their jobs very well.

It's still not clear to me whether he'd taken the medication for very long. It sure sounds like it wasn't long enough for it to have any effect on his schizophrenia. I take exception hearing so many people blame him for the murder because he stopped taking his meds, as though it was a selfish and deliberate choice on his part and he did it knowing what the consequences would be. He must have been very sick at that point and not rational.

"I believe those who choose to kill are also mentally ill. How can you kill and be of sound mind? Why aren't all murderers put into a psychiatric ward? To me it doesn't matter what kind of sickness it is - there is no excuse for crime. Especially one this heinous. The justice system is supporting Li when they should be supporting the Mcleans."

Murderous sociopaths are technically mentally ill but, unlike Vince Li, they are well aware that they are committing murder and they know it's wrong. They really don't care. Everything is a game to them. Before Vince Li became seriously ill, he attended church and worked there and was known as a hard worker in the jobs he held. I don't believe he didn't care about Tim McLean; his madness had consumed his rational mind at that point. Imagine coming out of the fog of insanity and finding out you'd committed unspeakable acts after killing someone. Unpopular as it may be, I feel sorry for him.

Li didn't think he had a "right" to take a life; he wasn't in control of his mind or his actions. He didn't make a conscious decision to kill. Until someone can show me an article that proves Li ever took meds until he had stabilized to the point where going off them was a decision made by a mentally competent man, I will continue to shoot down claims that he deliberately went off his meds. And even if he did, it doesn't change a darned thing. The outcome would have been the same: he'd still be considered not criminally responsible.

"I paid close attention to the trial and that was made FACT! His wife left him b/c he was not taking his prescribed meds, he new for years and he was even in a mental hospital prior to this all happening."

I'd like to see this "fact" in print. To my knowledge, his wife left him because of his strange behaviour. Yes, he was placed in a mental hospital by the RCMP but he refused treatment and left. It's not clear from the articles I've found whether he actually took the meds that were given to him at the hospital and, if he did, for how long. I've seen nothing to indicate that he was on meds at any other time and this was three years before the murder.

I think the lion's share of the posters here need to walk a mile in a person with a mental illness's shoes. As someone who struggles with one myself, I find a lot of the comments here barbaric and cruel. When did we become a lynch mob?

The mental healthcare system fails and many people fall through the cracks. A large part of this is due to the enormous stigma around these diseases. A stigma that has been proven here all day by the rednecks,rubes, and hillbillies that call for the man to be gibbeted.

One day someone in your family will encounter mental illness, and you will sing a different tune.

The intolerance and hate I have heard spewed here makes me ashamed to be a Winnipegger. The shocking and blatant disregard people have for people with mental conditions is absolutely horrifying. The act performed, as monstrous and horrible as it was, was not performed by the real Vincent Li. It was performed by an illness, by Schizophrenia, a disease that affects thousands of people with horrifying delusions and demons that most of us cannot comprehend.

I feel awful for the McLean family, and I feel awful for the Li family. There are 2 victims here. When Li comes out of the terrifying fog of Sczhizophrenia, he will have to deal with what he has done.

Hate the disease. Do not hate the man. Li is not a monster. Paul Bernardo is a monster. Li will never truly be free of what he has done, and his demons will likely haunt him for the rest of his days.

Calling for his execution, as DeDelly has done many times before, is the equivalent of executing the retarded.

It is time for healing here. The "vincent" that killed Tim McLean is dead. The real Vincent Li is now emerging from the fog.

If this tragedy signifies anything, it is that Schizophrenia needs more understanding, by everyone.

"I think the headline "May soon taste freedom" is unnecessarily reactionary and slanted."

I totally agree. Guarded walks outside the building are hardly what I'd call "freedom". More like, "Killer may soon taste the great outdoors". I also thought the poll question was slanted. When I hear the word "passes" in reference to an inmate or patient, I immediately think of them being allowed to enter the community and mingle with the public.

In this day and age, and with all that science has proven to us, you'd think the cynics would look outside their close-minded worlds and learn something new once in a while."
Yeah. One thing I've noticed on this site is that assigning blame is quite a popular pastime. (I'm guilty of it too.) We want to blame SOMEONE, whether it's the government, a government agency, the police, the perp, the perp's parents, etc. LOL In this situation, though, there isn't anyone to blame if one accepts that Li was psychotic and NCR.

It is quite surprising and disappointing that so few people have an understanding of mental illness. In this day and age, and with all that science has proven to us, you'd think the cynics would look outside their close-minded worlds and learn something new once in a while.

That's what people with no experience with mental illness have difficulty understanding. The judgements being made about Vince Li range from uncaring and irresponsible to cold-hearted murderer and worse. I just want to shake people and shout, "He wasn't aware of what he was doing!!" I hope the attitudes expressed here aren't representative of the general population. So many high-profile people have gone public with their mental illnesses over the last decade or two; I'd really hoped the stigma was being erased.

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