Monday, July 5, 2010
All criminals deserve a chance at reintegration!
Maybe Robert Dmytruk's testosterone level was in overdrive in the darkness of a July night in 1996. Whatever. Nobody should tolerate that or any other lame excuse to explain his actions 14 years ago.
Dmytruk and a band of thugs from Elmwood's long-defunct East Side Crypts were to battle it out with a rival street gang headquartered in the North End. Loaded guns were the weapons and Chalmers Community Centre was the battlefield.
But the other gang never showed, leaving the Elmwood riff-raff frustrated and loaded for bear and somebody was going to pay.
A pedestrian walking in the area garnered the gang's attention and bullets flew his way. He made it to safety as one shot penetrated a nearby home, lodging inches from where a baby slept.
But that wasn't enough.
Quyen-Vn Raceles and her boyfriend, Eric Vargas, both students, had just finished work and unwittingly picked the chosen war zone as a place to park and talk. Quyen is a jewel in her own right and Eric was a U of M star, the only child of immigrant parents who had come to Canada to live the dream.
With a coldness for which no explanation can suffice, Dmytruk and his cohorts sneaked up on the couple and opened fire leaving Eric Vargas with just a few more laboured breaths.
The Crypts decided there could be no witnesses to their mindless assassination. As Quyen cried "why," she too was shot.
Nineteen years old and riddled by four bullets, the gentle-hearted young woman fought to escape the surreal and save Eric. With all the guts and focus she could muster, Quyen put the car in gear and screeched east on Chalmers past Elmwood High School, toward the Concordia Hospital.
Racing for medical help was too much for her wounded body and just beyond Elmwood High, before the railway tracks, she crashed into a pole.
Paramedics rushed to the scene, their efforts to save Eric futile. Quyen was extremely critical and evacuated to the Health Sciences Centre.
I was just going to sleep when called to the scene. I took charge of the investigation and, given the depth and circumstances, rallied as many detectives as possible, including the rare move of bringing in a second supervisor, Tom Anderson, who was put to work alongside other investigators.
He and now-Supt. Dave Thorne, a crack detective in our unit, were sent to the HSC to get whatever information Quyen could provide when doctors weren't hovering. They left the hospital with the understanding that she would not survive beyond daybreak.
Hours of overnight canvassing and interrogation yielded those responsible including Dmytruk who was putty in Thorne's hands. A confession was extracted that along with other evidence led to several charges.
Maybe it was a miracle, but Quyen's resilience surprised everyone. Detectives Scott Bell and Jim Thiessen worked with her, keeping track in the months that followed and marvelled at the injured body and strong mind determined to see justice done.
Dmytruk's tough-guy demeanour was no match for Quyen's eloquence and inner strength. Justice Brenda Keyser and a jury listened intently to the case where evidence led to Dmytruk's two life sentences, with a minimum 15 years before parole could be entertained.
Controversy erupted last year when the Free Press reported that Dmytruk, well short of that minimum, had for some time been receiving escorted excursions to malls and 7-Elevens as a way of integrating back into the mainstream.
Last week it hit the fan again when it was revealed that he'd applied for unescorted passes. Dmytruk's prison rehab team supported the move although why remains murky in the face of a slough of documented prison violations.
Bravo to the National Parole Board for dismissing Dmytruk, his team and the convoluted idea of de facto parole to test the waters for real parole. Genuine parole is the time to step up with reintegration efforts outside of prison -- not before -- and Justice Keyser determined 15 years was the absolute minimum time to be behind bars.
This murder and acts of violence continue to require denunciation that goes beyond mere words. Pass-on-demand rehabilitation rooted in over-the-top compassion for a killer substantially discounts the lives of Eric and Quyen.
Dmytruk never getting out of prison should remain a very real possibility. Time cannot undo the loss caused by his thirst for gunplay.
Shooting it out with rival gangs, at pedestrians and endangering babies is unacceptable. Changing a young woman's life immeasurably and snatching away another is unacceptable.
And unacceptable is the thought that Robert Dmytruk could now be savouring even the slightest taste of freedom. His choices in July of 1996 were about cold-blooded murder and now's not the time to make nice.
I completely disagree with this article. This man, and all other criminals, deserve a second chance to improve and rehabilitate themselves and I strongly support rehabilitation programs and reintegration into the community. Longer sentences are only revenge and do not increase public safety in the long term. It is cruel and dangerous to hold offenders in prison until their warrant expiry date where they would be released from prison with no conditions, assistance, supervision or support. Everybody deserves the opportunity for successful reintegration. If this man has been successful on escorted absences, there is no reason to deny him unescorted absences. Our society needs to support efforts at reintegration as the majority of offenders will someday be released into our communities. It is in our best interests that they begin the reintegration process BEFORE they are released. The author of this article is merely seeking revenge on this man. We need to provide offenders with the opportunities and chances to improve themselves and become law abiding and productive citizens once again. The purposes of prison are supposed to be rehabilitation and reintegration, not punishment and retribution. All criminals deserve to be reintegrated gradually. Temporary absences are an integral part of successful reintegration into society and society needs to support that. I support reintegration as long as the individual is not considered a high risk to the public's safety.