A woman whose prison violence resulted in her being denied statutory release will be freed after officials found her attitude and behaviour improved.
Bobby Lee Ann Worm was sentenced to six years and four months in 2006 on robbery and assault charges and subsequently convicted twice for uttering threats. Her conditions in prison formed the basis of a lawsuit against solitary confinement.
By law, most prisoners automatically get statutory release after serving two-thirds of their sentence, if they have not already been granted parole.
Ms. Worm's two-thirds mark came up in August, 2010, but she was detained in June of that year and again in 2011 after the board concluded that she was likely to commit an offence involving serious harm or death before her sentence expires in October, 2012.
But on April 25, following a psychological assessment in March and Ms. Worm's taking part in a violence prevention program, parole board officials decided she could be released, with conditions that include staying away from drugs and alcohol.
In its reasons for decision, the board said Ms. Worm – an aboriginal woman originally from Saskatchewan – had shown a "complete shift from past behaviour."
Ms. Worm chalked up her change in attitude to "following the aboriginal spiritual path."
"You have begun to deal with the trauma that you suffered during childhood and have come to understand in many ways why you became the violent and uncaring person that you were when committing crime," says the April 25 report.
Noting "positive gains," the board observed Ms. Worm had not engaged in violent or disruptive behaviour since her last review, in May, 2011, and that she told the board that she hadn't used drugs since being incarcerated.
Ms. Worm is being released under a "one chance" provision. That means, if she is returned to prison, she would not be entitled to another statutory release before the end of her sentence.
Ms. Worm, 19 at the time, was sentenced for a string of gas station robberies around Regina. While incarcerated, she clashed with staff and inmates. Parole board documents say some assaults on other inmates were described as "ferocious," including an incident in which she threw a television on a victim's chest and another in which she pulled hair from a victim's scalp.
Ms. Worm was reclassified as a "medium security" offender last year and continued to "behave appropriately," the report states.
Last year, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association filed a lawsuit against the Attorney General of Canada, naming Ms. Worm as a plaintiff. The lawsuit concerned a 2003 management protocol that allowed women deemed high-risk offenders to be kept in segregation for long stretches of time. The lawsuit said prolonged segregation is related to side effects including rage and aggression, and that "Ms. Worm had served the majority of her sentence in segregation."
A spokeswoman for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association on Monday said the lawsuit is still under way but no trial date has been set.
In an e-mail, a spokeswoman for the Correctional Service of Canada said the management protocol was rescinded as of May 2, 2011, and there are currently no women in solitary confinement under that policy. Seven women were placed in segregation under the protocol between 2003, when it was introduced, and May, 2011.