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, September 9, 2010

Gang members plead guilty to kidnapping

Two members of Winnipeg street gang have admitted to a gunpoint attack against the mother of one of their criminal colleagues.
Jammal Dillinger Jacob and Michael Brandon Williams pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges including kidnapping, forcible confinement and aggravated assault. The pair, who have ties to the Mad Cowz, will be sentenced later this year.
The 40-year-old victim immigrated from South Africa and has described her ordeal as comparable to the violence she witnessed in refugee camps prior to coming to Canada. The single mother of four suffered extensive physical and emotional injuries and was placed in the federal witness-protection program. She moved out of the province, court was told.
Jacob, Williams and another gang member had known the victim for years because of their affiliation with her son. The trio decided to try to get some money out of the woman after they crossed paths with her on the street while she was looking for her son in 2007.
They took the woman to a home on the belief her son would be there. Then, they pulled out guns and held them to her head. The gang members told the woman she hadn't "thanked them" for looking after her boy when he was in prison by ensuring he wouldn't be attacked by other inmates.
They initially demanded $10,000, then changed it to $40,000 when she said she could only offer a few hundred dollars. The men beat her with the butt ends of their guns, fracturing her left sinus cavity. They also hit her with a set of weights and a pipe, poked her in the eye socket and said she and her family would be killed.
The woman convinced the men to drive her to the restaurant where she worked so she could get some cash. She ran for help as soon as she was let out of the car.
Cory Amyotte, 23, pleaded guilty earlier this summer to aggravated assault and extortion and was sentenced to four years in prison. Amyotte and Jacob have previously made headlines for refusing to testify in a high-profile murder trial.
Phil Haiart died in October 2005 after getting caught in the crossfire of a gang shootout in the West End. Jeffrey Cansanay was convicted earlier this year of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Cory Spence was convicted of the same charge as a youth, but raised to adult court and given life in prison.
Amyotte and another gang member, Gharib Abdullah, were the targets of the bullets that hit Haiart. Cansanay previously went on trial in 2007 but was cleared by a judge who refused to allow videotaped police statements from Amyotte and Abdullah to be played in court when they both remained silent in the witness box. The Manitoba Court of Appeal later overturned the decision and ordered a new trial, saying the judge had erred.
Abdullah and Amyotte were cited for contempt of court and received precedent-setting prison terms -- four years for Amyotte, three-and-a-half for Abdullah. Both men testified when Cansanay's second trial began this spring. Abdullah told jurors he saw Cansanay open fire on him and Amyotte. Amyotte said he was in hiding at the time and didn't see anything.
Jacob was sentenced in 2008 to two years in prison for refusing to testify at Spence's trial. He was originally given three years behind bars for contempt of court but had it reduced on appeal to two years.

These gang members should not be given overly harsh sentences. Gangs often flourish in prisons and ties are often strengthened with antisocial criminal peers. Gang members readily subscribe to the prison subculture consisting of pro criminal attitudes, values and behaviours. They are often released with little to no rehabilitation, no skills, education, or assistance/support in the community and are therefore, much more likely to resort back to crime. I feel sorry for gang members because they often join due to a lack of belonging and sense of affection, respect and identity within their biological families and therefore, they fulfill these needs in other ways, for example, by joining gangs. Family conflict, neglect, abuse, dysfunction, etc. often underlies the reasons why individuals join gangs. Those issues need to be addressed effectively. I would sentence these gang members to 2 years in prison followed by community support, intensive supervision, family counseling, and community programming aimed at gang desistance. 

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