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Easy time at Sprucedale

Article by: By MICHELE MANDEL
Ontario’s most heinous young offenders may as well be at camp –
The teen who stabbed his brother Johnathon 71 times enjoys the swimming pool. A youth implicated in the Boxing Day shooting of Jane Creba has access to pottery class.
They may be young, but they are killers or accused killers, and so we assume that they will pay dearly for their actions.
But we would be wrong.
A fraternity of Ontario’s most heinous young murderers are doing easy time at Sprucedale Youth Centre, says an employee who has come forward after years of frustration.
“They get the kid glove treatment,” complains the worker, who doesn’t want his name used. “It bothers a lot of us. It’s pretty incredible as far as what these guys get. They’re treated with a lot more dignity than their victims ever were.”
Located in Simcoe, 90 minutes west of Toronto, the youth jail is the highest level of closed detention ordered for young offenders.
It seems they may as well be at camp.
Besides the indoor pool, there’s the gym, weight room, tennis courts, shared kitchens, video games and late-night weekends when they’re allowed to order in Kentucky Fried Chicken or McDonald’s. If they get bored, there’s the volleyball club, hockey program, arts and crafts and music appreciation.
“Schools in the city are looking at having to close their pools while at our place, they can get their swimming lessons or go down for a recreational swim,” the staffer says. “I have to pay for my kids to take swimming lessons. These kids don’t. They’re given everything. It just makes you sick.”
CONSCIOUS DECISION
At the same time, we have made a conscious decision in this country not to be as punitive with youth criminals here as they are in the United States.
We believe that there is still hope for these kids, that there remains a small window to reach them.
If we just threw them into the adult population, there’s little doubt they would come out the other side angrier and more bent on criminality than ever before.
But this employee argues that we have gone too far in the opposite direction.
“We just got in one of the (accused) Boxing Day shooters,” he says of a young offender charged in the death of 15-year-old Creba. “He’s just laughing while he’s at this Mickey Mouse joint. How does this stop them from killing again?”
What especially galls him is that six of the 38 currently in the youth centre are over 18 and aren’t even kids. Of those some are even over 20, the age they are required to be transferred into adult prison by the Youth Criminal Justice Act unless the provincial director deems otherwise.
“When they hit 18, you should kick them out and make them do some hard time,” he argues.
Last week, the 21-year-old killer of Terrence Ali, the young teen beaten to death after a Caribana party in 2003, was finally moved out of Sprucedale into an adult jail after intense pressure from Ali’s furious mother.
The Sprucedale worker says Ali’s killer was a bully who should have been moved out long before.
“He was beating this one kid up and he was still allowed to stay there,” he says. “He was a 21-year-old treated like a kid who could get anything.”
For at least one inmate, anything even included sex.
This 21-year-old is in Sprucedale for the 2003 Scarborough murder of his 17-year-old ex-girlfriend with a baseball bat. That didn’t stop him from having a six-week-long affair last summer with one of the centre’s supervisory officers.
As the Sun’s Sam Pazzano revealed last month, the employee was fired but Sprucedale authorities are not only letting the killer stay on — they are even recommending he be released into the community 10 months early because he’s an “exemplary resident.”
‘WE WERE SHOCKED’
“We were shocked he was allowed to stay,” says the Sprucedale worker. “He was out bowling with her during some of their encounters. How he was out of a maximum security jail bowling is beyond me.”
Bowling excursions, he says, have now been cancelled.
Also bunking at the youth jail is Kevin Madden, 19, who was sentenced as an adult last fall to life in prison for the vicious murder of his brother Johnathon.
Yet the notorious killer is being allowed to serve his first two years in the youth facility despite court testimony that he is liable to bully younger boys.
“The first thing he did when he got here was go for a swim,” the employee says. “We just shake our heads at what happens there.”
He says it’s time the public — and the victims’ families — knew what goes on.
“If people had half a notion, they’d be appalled,” he insists. “The kids are laughing because they’re going to the Sprucedale resort. It must drive a nail into parents’ hearts.”