Kamloops: The Daily News (October 23rd, 2013) (Accessed November 3, 2013)
Commentary by Krystal Glowatski
Derek Baptiste, an inmate at KRCC (Kamloops), will serve one additional year in prison for stabbing a fellow inmate. While the defence wanted the one-year sentence to be served concurrently, to avoid the “warehouse” phenomenon, the judge agreed with the Crown that one additional year is not excessive. Baptiste was originally jailed for: four break-and-enters, a breach of recognizance, and possession of a dangerous weapon. Based on these offences, the fact that this individual has FASD, and the recent Consensus Development Conference on FASD and Legal Issues, there are likely a number of people out there who would argue that jail is excessive for this individual.
While FASD should not be a “get-out-of-jail-free-card,” there should be special consideration for the issues that plague individuals with FASD. Unfortunately, these individuals are vulnerable to begin with and placing them in prisons only makes them that much more susceptible to victimization. Alternative forms of accountability should be considered more often when the court is aware of an individual’s diagnosis of FASD. As stated in the draft of the Consensus Statement (Vol. 5), it is recommended that there should be consideration by Parliament to make conditional sentences more available for vulnerable individuals, such as those who have FASD. I suppose the question remains – where should these changes take root? Is it the responsibility of judges to acknowledge FASD and use what discretion they have to recognize the special considerations necessary to help these individuals, or is it the responsibility of higher powers such as the government to drastically change legislation? This is an interesting case, in which the individual is documented as having FASD (something that isn’t often recognized in the prison population), yet he was sentenced based on regular standards. Perhaps more time is needed to start seeing changes within sentencing as they have been envisioned at the Consensus Development Conference in September 2013.