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A prisoners cell at from the old Don Jail in Toronto: A judge says a prisoner in Edmonton was mistreated while awaiting trial and deserved to have his sentence cut in half. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)
A prisoners cell at from the old Don Jail in Toronto: A judge says a prisoner in Edmonton was mistreated while awaiting trial and deserved to have his sentence cut in half. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

Globe editorial

Once again, our prison system fails. And this time it’s the victims of crime who suffer Add to ...

David Spencer Adams is not a model citizen. The 22-year-old pleaded guilty in Edmonton earlier this month to multiple charges related to his use of the Internet to lure girls aged 13 to 15 into having intercourse with him. In one case, he used intimate photos of a victim to blackmail her.

And yet our society is now obliged to show him leniency. Mr. Adams was beaten up in prison before his conviction by at least one guard and by fellow inmates. Last week, a judge sentenced him to 12 years for his crimes, but then cut the time in half, due to the injustices Mr. Adams endured while in the state’s custody.

Canadians will react to this with justified anger. But they should be sure to direct their anger toward the right people. Don’t blame the judge.

Read more: Alberta judge cuts sex predator's sentence in half after beating in jail

Read more: Meet the man tasked to solve Canada's corrections problem

Opinion: Solitary confinement is pure torture. I know, I was there

As Justice Terry Clackson said in his ruling, there is a “notion that prisoners have no rights and deserve whatever ill treatment they may suffer.” But, he added, “criminals are still people entitled to basic human rights, and the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms] extends into that environment the same way it extends into all environments.”

Exactly. The failure to protect inmates is directly connected to the mistreatment of hundreds of Canadians kept in solitary confinement for months and years on end. The recent example of Adam Capay, who has been in solitary for more than four years awaiting trial, is a symptom of the disease identified by Justice Clackson.

The blame for these miscarriages should be aimed directly at those responsible for Canada’s federal and provincial prisons; that is, the politicians who have for too long failed to find the courage – and the money – to fix a difficult problem.

The same failure of courage that caused Mr. Capay such harm has now robbed Mr. Adams’s victims, and their families, and Canadian society at large, of the justice that should have come from seeing a predator put behind bars for an appropriate sentence.

When a prison fails to keep peace, order and good government inside, and fails to rehabilitate offenders, it hurts both inmates and society. And when criminals are ordered released early, not for good behaviour but as a form of compensation for the state’s bad behaviour, the justice system fails crime’s victims. Something is very wrong with this picture.

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