When 2 1/2 years equals less than one

Amanda Frizzley was killed in a drunk-driving crash (Facebook)

I’m not going to carry on about this, more like just point it out:

Steven Watkins, the drunk driver who killed Amanda Frizzley in a horrific wreck in downtown Winnipeg on Sept. 30, 2007, spent less than one year behind bars after being sentenced to a 2 1/2 year term for impaired driving causing death.

He was granted full parole on Jan. 20, 2010.

On Jan. 21, 2009 —  364 days earlier — Watkins was sentenced.

His time in prison was even less if you consider he was granted unescorted temporary absences after six months.

There’s no question Watkins is remorseful for what happened. National Parole Board documents obtained a few days ago make that clear. He has no prior record, has been attending programming and has obeyed every last court-order he is supposed to.

His parole officers describe him as a “quiet, compliant and cooperative inmate that has used [his] sentence constructively to complete programming.”

The board describes him as “thoughtful, honest and remorseful for [his] actions.”

You note that your choices created a number of victims and your remorse is clearly evident. You are fully aware of the tragic impact of those choices and understand that they will remain with you for your life…

You impressed the board with your sincerity and your intention to meet any and all program requirements and supervision rules

Again: a remorseful, young (he’s 23) offender with no record and a model inmate to boot.

Never breached bail in the 15 months he was out pending his guilty plea and has solid family/community support. Can’t get his licence back until 2014. He’s employed.

Given these factors, there’s obviously no reason he should be in prison.

Or is there? Do the parole board’s regulations and federal statutory release provisions undermine public confidence in the justice system?

A judge hands down a 2 1/2 year sentence. Should people have the right to expect that sentence should be duly served?

From what I’ve experienced, Watkins’s case is an anomaly — one of those times where you can see why Canada’s parole system works. He’ll have to live with Frizzley’s death for the rest of his life.

But what about the others  — the chronic criminals adept at playing the system — who have the same rules apply to them?

They do inmates like Watkins a disservice.

-30-

PS- I’ve been away, back and reading a bunch of new stuff while trying not to be too bored with this civic election of ours we’ve got going on. You know the municipal campaign is dull when one of the city’s newspapers comes out with a provincial election preview a year from the date it’s supposed to happen — and just weeks before city voters go to the polls.

Kelcey has an interesting Participation-like scheme taking place on his blog for advance voters.

Vote, then come back to his blog and tell people all about who you chose (or didn’t!) and why.

To quote: “more insightful than a dozen polls.”

And even though there are only two responses so far, they are both pretty interesting.

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