Article by: KATHLEEN HARRIS, NATIONAL BUREAU
– Medium security for repeat criminal
OTTAWA — A repeat convict who raped and strangled his son’s grandmother slipped past a rule that requires murderers to spend at least two years in maximum-security prison, the Sun has learned.
Valerie MacPherson is outraged that Ronald Fowler did not do a day of hard time for killing her mother, Diana Russell, in her Kelowna, B.C., home in 2002. Fowler was convicted of first-degree murder in March 2006 and sent to a medium-security facility in B.C. to serve his life sentence.
“This was his third federal offence and he was actually on parole on a conditional sentence at the time he raped and murdered my mother,” MacPherson said in an interview from Lethbridge, Alta. “It’s not a self-defence murder. This was a 61-year-old woman who was recovering from knee surgery. He put her through a lot of pain and agony before he murdered her.”
MacPherson is upset with the rationale provided by the Correctional Service of Canada, which reasoned that Fowler should be housed in a less-secure setting based on his previous history in the federal system. A letter from Anne Kelly, Correctional Service of Canada regional deputy commissioner, reveals the classification was based on Fowler’s behaviour before he committed murder.
“As offender Fowler has served previous federal sentences, we have a pattern of institutional behaviour that has led us to believe that his risk can be managed in a medium-security institution,” the letter reads.
Last November, a Sun Media report revealed that 30% of inmates recently convicted of first and second-degree murder dodged doing hard time despite a mandatory two-years-in-max policy adopted in 2001. CSC had quietly amended the rule to give wardens discretion to grant exemptions in September 2005, leading to a spike in the number who avoided max.
After the report, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day instructed CSC to quit playing fast and loose with the rule and said he would review it.