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Parole system 'rotten and screwed up'

Dorothy Westerman
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 22/06) - The fact that nobody is being held accountable for the death of parole officer Louise Pargeter troubles her partner, Anne Lynagh.

She wants a public inquiry into the death of Pargeter, who was murdered by a parolee - Eli Ulayuk - while he was under her supervision in October 2004. Ulayuk had been released from prison after a conviction for killing another woman in 1988.

"The federal government does not give jurisdiction to actually go into their workplace and enforce workplace procedures," Lynagh said.

"Labour Canada is supposed to do that and they have chosen not to push for a court action."

She was commenting on the Corrections Canada/National Parole Board investigative report and action plan released March 9 as a result of Pargeter's death.

"It's an internal report and I think they took a long look at it. What they found was atrocious. They said that everybody screwed up; so much so, that they don't want to point fingers at the individuals because it's systematic.

"They are saying basically that the whole system is rotten," Lynagh said.

"Lots of staff made very poor, or the absolutely wrong judgment, and nobody is being held accountable," Lynagh said.

"We make RCMP officers or engineers accountable - why aren't parole officers and the national board members being held accountable?" Lynagh questioned.

Pargeter might have been alive today if she was not required to go on a home visit to Ulayak's apartment, or if she were not alone in doing so, Lynagh said. She paralleled Pargeter's death to the situation in Yellowknife where the City and two fire department senior managers were charged in the March 17, 2005, deaths of two firefighters on the job.

The parole action plan contains 69 recommendations addressing staff safety, some of which have been implemented.

"The board says it would like an external board to make sure that Corrections has done these changes.

"But Corrections is not following that recommendation to a 'T'. It is saying that even though it is systemic and even though we screwed up everywhere, we can still fix this problem," Lynagh said.

"I don't trust them and I don't think anybody should trust them.

Among the recommendations is requiring the Offender Management System identify criminals who have exhibited abusive, threatening, or other potentially dangerous behaviour towards staff.

Parole officers now have access to a cellular or satellite phone when outside the office.

Also, when travelling to remote areas, parole officers are to notify area police as a precaution.

Lynagh said parole officers on the job may be more cautious as a result of Pargeter's death.

"Yes, the system will change, but has it changed enough? I don't think so.

"The only way there will be real change is if those employed in the federal government are brought to task for poor judgment."