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.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Vince Li granted supervised time outside -- a basic human right which nobody should be denied

WINNIPEG -- Vince Li will not be allowed to leave the locked forensic unit at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre for brief outings until security measures are beefed up, Justice Minister Andrew Swan said today.
Swan told reporters the decision by a Criminal Code review board to allow Li to have brief escorted passes outdoors on the health centre’s grounds "will shock the conscience of Manitobans and indeed all Canadians."
"In our view this order is contrary to the interests of public safety and seriously undermines public confidence in the Canadian system of justice," he said.
Swan wrote a letter to federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson outlining his concerns.
"We strongly urge that the Criminal Code of Canada should be amended to ensure that such a demonstrably unfit disposition cannot be made," Swan said in the letter. "At a minimum, the Criminal Code should provide that public safety must be the paramount consideration before the Criminal Code Review Board."
Swan said the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, which houses Li, will decide what security measures are needed.
Li was found not criminally responsible last year for the 2008 beheading of 22-year-old Tim McLean on a Greyhound Bus near Portage la Prairie. He admitted responsibility for the attack but a judge found him to be suffering from hallucinations and untreated schizophrenia at the time, which left him unable to appreciate or control his actions.
This morning, Li was given clearance to start receiving supervised passes that let him out of his locked, high-risk ward.
Li learned a provincial review board hearing decided to accept his treatment team's recommendation to allow him opportunities for fresh air and recreation. The board said Li would initially be allowed to go outside for 15 minutes at a time, twice a day. The review board said those privileges could be extended to up to one hour passes, twice a day, provided there are no issues.
The grounds are not surrounded by any fence or barrier and extra staff will likely have to be hired to accommodate the resources needed for Li, the board was told. This has prompted concern from the family of Li's victim, members of the community and some politicians who said earlier this week Li should be transferred to another province.
If allowed out, Li would be accompanied by a security guard and a nurse at all times, which is an increase of the typical one-on-one supervision other residents receive. They have been ordered to carry cellphones or two-way radios which allow them to be in contact with each other, and inside staff.
The review board said Li would have to be accompanied by an armed police officer if he is required to leave the grounds of Selkirk for any reason, such as a medical appointment.
"We’re taking a very cautious approach. We have no way of knowing how he will respond," Dr. Steven Kraemer, Li's treating psychiatrist, told the review board earlier this week.
Li appeared Monday at his annual review board hearing, where board members must decide what type of care and supervision he should receive for the next 12 months.
Kraemer said Li has responded well to medication, listens well to staff and has attended all required programming and treatment. Li has developed a better understanding about the impact of his crime and only "occasionally" suffers from the hallucinations that once haunted him.
But Crown attorney Corrine Deegan argued it was far too early to be giving Li any privileges.
"These supervised ground permits are not appropriate," she argued. "The fact they are request that (extra) level of security is evidence of concern."
McLean’s family and friends filled the Winnipeg courtroom Monday and were opposed to giving Li any outdoor time. They say the risk of something going wrong is too high.
"I was shocked the whole facility isn’t surrounded by a fence," said McLean’s mother, Carol de Delley. "I don’t think he should have any freedom. Treat him humanely, but in a locked facility for the rest of his life."
Li's next review board hearing will occur in late May or early June of 2011.

Bus beheader passes delayed
Manitoba Justice Minister Andrew Swan and the Selkirk Mental Health Centre have stepped in to prevent any immediate movement by bus beheader Vince Li outside the complex, despite the Criminal Code Review Board's order to allow it.
Swan told reporters Thursday that escorted walks by Li, as approved in a board decision earlier in the day, will not be granted until the health centre upgrades its security. He did not specify what security will be added, saying such changes are up to the complex's management.
Swan has written to and spoken to federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson about the Manitoba government's concerns for public safety regarding the review board's decision, saying that the "demonstrably unfit" order "seriously undermines public confidence in the Canadian system of justice."
The mentally ill killer was set to be permitted escorted walks on the grounds of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, as of June 7.
The Criminal Code Review Board, which reviews Li's status every year, decided to follow a psychiatrist's advice that Li was ready for a ground pass, which would have allowed him to head outdoors at the health centre while accompanied by two security personnel.
The grounds pass privileges would have begun with 15-minute passes and could have increased to a maximum of one-hour periods, up to twice per day.
The decision came after the family of Tim McLean, the man Li brutally killed on a Greyhound bus in 2008, lobbied to impose minimum sentences on those found not criminally responsible of killing someone else.
Li was found not criminally responsible for McLean's killing in March 2009 and has been at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre ever since.

Li is not the same person or in the same mental state as he was when he killed McLean. He is attending treatment and is on medications. Letting him go on supervised walks, will not pose a risk to anybody, as he is not that dangerous person anymore. He should not be transferred to another facility. He is responding well to treatment and medications and denying him the right to go outside for sunshine and fresh air would be inhumane and uncivilized. We need to treat the mentally ill with respect and dignity. Li should not be further punished and deprived for an act which he had no control over. Li was a victim of his mental disorder.

I can't believe the haters posting on this site. Are people so incapable of understanding the reality that mental illness can cause someone to do something they would never do if in a healthy state of mind. It's exactly this sort of stigmatization of the mentally ill that leads them not to seek the help they need because of the shame they are made to feel about it by the kinds of small minded people posting their vengeance and hatred on this forum. I received the shock of my life one day when my supposedly educated cousin and his wife made mocking comments about the gentle schizophrenic they had for a neighbour. There is just way too much fear and ignorance out there about mental health issues.

Hate the sin, not the sinner.

It's not about freedom for Li - it's about treatment for his illness. Mental illness is commonly ignored because you can't see it. The fact is, keeping him inside and locked up makes him even more of a danger. Part of treatment must be allowing him to feel like a human being....not a caged animal just waiting to break out.

What happened to Tim is horrible. My heart breaks for his family and loved ones. However hating Li will do nothing to bring him back. What we should direct our energy to, as a society, is recognizing mental illness as a true illness, and treating people accordingly. Many of our greatest socialized costs (homelessness and addiction) are caused by untreated mental illness. Lets spend less money giving corporate tax breaks to the oil companies in this country and lets fund mental health care programs properly. That won't save Tim - but it could save someone elses life in the future.

Goodness gracious, you'd think the SMH had moved to bring in a harem of serving wenches to feed Li grapes, pedicure his toes and fan him with palm leaves as he rested on a quilted and perfumed divan.

Looks, folks, read the article again. Read it carefully. I promise you, it's not nearly as awful and terrifying as many commenters here seem to believe. Li is simply being allowed to take a 15-minute walk around the SMH grounds, under guard. Big whoop.

If you really think that a brief stroll immediately outside the hospital, under guard, is this much of a scandal, then I'm not sure what to say about your sense of scale or proportion. Li is essentially just getting a negligible offering that he would basically have, were he found criminally responsible; in most prisons, prisoners get a chance to hang out in the yard, yes? Same deal.

As for the fearmongering and handwringing about safety: mental illness, learn you some. The risk of Li hurting anyone again is very minimal, the risk of him escaping under this arrangement less so.

Oh, and as for this garbage:

"Wow !! I wonder how a Canadian would be treated in Li's homeland if we committed the same crime ?? "

Why is that relevant at all? That Canadian would probably be executed in secret, without fair trial; happily, we have a superior justice system, and pointing out other countries' atrocious human rights records is hardly an argument for Canada to imitate their corrupt, secretive, and civil rights-less systems.

What people fail to realize is that all of the notorious (serial)killers have been given out door recreational time while in prison. The most notorious serial killers, murders, rapist, etc. get 23 hours locked in their cell, and 1 hour outside/recreational time.

Did you read the first two paragraphs of the article? Most of the opinions on here are equally as ignorant.

The people treating Li have years of education and experience. It could be they know what they are doing. Their comment regarding not knowing how he will respond to time outdoors is a responsible position to take. Regardless of the amount of time that goes by prior to Li being let outside of his locked ward nobody will ever know with absolute certainty how Li will respond once outside. The only way to know is to try it in a secure fashion, which, by the way, is what is being proposed.

There is no gain to be had in making Li suffer. He is a patient in a mental health facility and, like it or not, is entitled to adequate care. Mature people know that unpleasant situations still require care and diligence. The hatred on this forum is irresponsible, childish and does a disservice to our community. Li should not be further punished and deprived of basic human rights, for actions which were out of his control. Li is a victim of his mental illness and that is what you must blame. You cannot blame Li, because he was not mentally present during the act. He is a different person now that he has been receiving treatment and medications and to deny him the basic human right of fresh air and sunshine, would be inhumane and uncivilized. 

Li is not the same person or in the same mental state as he was when he killed McLean. He is attending treatment and is on medications. Letting him go on supervised walks, will not pose a risk to anybody, as he is not that dangerous person anymore. He should not be transferred to another facility. He is responding well to treatment and medications and denying him the right to go outside for sunshine and fresh air would be inhumane and uncivilized. We need to treat the mentally ill with respect and dignity. Li should not be further punished and deprived for an act which he had no control over.

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