Alex Atamanenko (BC Southern Interior) is asking the Minister for Public Safety, Peter Van Loan, to reconsider his decision not to allow Perley Holmes, a constituent who was convicted in the US for drug trafficking, to serve his time in Canada.
“I am deeply disappointed in the Minister’s denial of this application,” said Atamanenko. “Mr. Holmes made a serious mistake and is paying for it by serving 8 years in prison. However, it is cruel to his wife, Sheila, their eight children, his 87 year old mother and their extended family having him so far away and for so long. The agreement between our two countries allows him to serve this time in Canada.”
Holmes is serving time at Moshannon Valley Correctional Centre in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania. His application for prisoner transfer under the International Transfer of Offenders Act (ITO) was denied on April 9th yet Mr. Holmes and his family did not find out about it until July of this year.
Atamanenko went on to explain that the ITO is both humanitarian and practical in its purpose. Its helps alleviate the kind of hardship suffered in a foreign prison and also that borne by the offender’s family. Once transferred, the Correctional Service of Canada facilitates an offender’s eventual reintegration into society through practical and varied programs designed in the interests of public protection.
Atamanenko says that he has received numerous letters of support on Perley Holmes’ behalf from family, friends, neighbours and co-workers. He believes that Holmes is well-regarded, despite his error and, if brought home, he has the kind of support in place that would make the job of the Correctional Service of Canada much easier in accessing his risk and preparing for his release.
“Upon completion of his or her sentence in a foreign prison, an offender is released and deported to Canada, without a criminal record or any conditions attached,” said the BC MP. “Even if Mr. Holmes was a genuine threat to our national security, a determination with which I disagree, I think most Canadians would prefer that he be transferred into our system so that he could be monitored and supervised upon release.”
“The ITO legislation is intended for precisely these types of situations,” added New Democrat Public Safety Critic Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway). “Our society has a clear interest in sentencing offenders. We also benefit from effective rehabilitation and ensuring innocent family members are not irreparably harmed.”
“I also urge the government to transfer Mr. Holmes to complete his sentence in Canada,” Davies concluded.
August 10, 2009
The Honourable Peter Van Loan, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Public Safety
Sir Wilfrid Laurier Building, 13th Floor
340 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, ON K1A 0P8
RE: Denial of application for prisoner transfer by Perley Holmes
Dear Minister Van Loan:
I am writing express my deep disappointment upon hearing the news of the denial of Perley Holmes’ application for prisoner transfer to Canada. As I understand it, the decision was made on the basis that Mr. Holmes is considered to be “a threat to National Security”. I was also informed that there was a very long delay before Mr. Holmes was notified of the decision, unfairly allowing him to hope for a positive decision long beyond the time the negative decision was rendered.
As described on the Correctional Service of Canada website, “The purpose of these [Prisoner Transfer of Offender] agreements is humanitarian to enable offenders to serve their sentence in their country of citizenship, to alleviate undue hardships borne by offenders and their families and facilitate their eventual reintegration into society. Once transferred, the offender's sentence is administered in accordance with the laws of the receiving country.”
These treaties exist to support the offender’s family, the offender and the public. Sheila and Perley Holmes have been married for twenty-eight years. They have eight children and Mr. Holmes’ mother is eighty-seven years old. Mr. Holmes made a major mistake in his life and has been incarcerated in the United States since his arrest on January 18, 2007. He was sentenced to serve 96 months. He had no prior record and he committed a non-violent offence. My office received numerous letters of support for his transfer from his friends and family attesting to his good character, this lapse notwithstanding.
As you can imagine, this situation has been very hard on Mr. Holmes’ family. Sheila Holmes, their children and their grand-children are a family like any other -- they celebrate birthdays, graduations, and farewells as various life events unfold among its members. Because of Perley’s sentence, family members mark these events without him.
Mr. Holmes was the sole breadwinner for his family for many years. After twenty years of being a homemaker, Sheila Holmes was forced to re-enter the work-force to support the family after Mr. Holmes was imprisoned. She had no previous career or training and is working for minimum wage. As a family, they cannot afford to travel to visit Mr. Holmes while he is serving his sentence in the US. If he could be transferred to a Corrections Canada facility in western Canada, his family could remain in contact with him over the years to come.
A transfer would also help this family as Mr. Holmes nears the latter part of his sentence. Although he could return to Canada without a criminal record if he completes his sentence and is released in the USA, he applied for transfer because he needs to be closer to his family and they need to be closer to him. In nearing the end of his sentence, he would be released under conditions from a Canadian correctional facility, allowing him to begin to participate again in family life through employment, caring for his mother, interacting with his children and taking his place in the lives of his grandchildren. While spending several years imprisoned may be deemed as a suitable outcome of his crime, his family will be punished more than necessary by his absence of 8 years, through no fault of their own.
As well, if Mr. Holmes serves his remaining time in a correctional facility in the US, he would be released at the end of sentence and deported to Canada, without monitoring or formal supports. On the other hand, if transferred, he would be eligible for parole and other types of support upon his release. These would serve him well as he makes the transition back into life outside of the correctional facility, helping to re-integrate him as a productive member of our society once again.
Canada’s public safety would also be served by a transfer since Mr. Holmes would be subject to a number of conditions upon his release. According to the Correctional Service of Canada website:
“As soon as a sentence is imposed, CSC begins assessing risk and preparing for the day the offender will be released. Community staff gather information about the offender from different sources such as families, police, court, victims and members of the public. Information gathering continues throughout the prison term and during conditional release. Such information helps CSC manage offenders while they are in custody, determine readiness for conditional release and monitor and support those who are back in the community. Staff draw on a large body of research on offenders and sophisticated analytical tools in measuring risk. These tools, along with information files and staff’s professional experience and judgement, help to determine whether an offender can safely and successfully return to the community.”
None of these conditions would be applicable if Mr. Holmes were to complete his sentence in the USA. Upon release, he would be deported from the USA and have no conditions or formal supports upon his return to Canada.
Another reason for my disappointment is my concern for Mr. Holmes’ well-being. Numerous sources of information indicate that terrible conditions exist in US prisons. Many of them, including the one in which Mr. Holmes is incarcerated, are privately-run prisons, owned by large corporations, with the sole objective of making large amounts of money. Various sources report that one of the ways that these private prisons save costs is to have very large numbers of inmates supervised by very few guards, which leaves prisoners at risk. In the same vein, food quality is very poor and overcrowding is an ever-present condition. Losing one’s freedom seems sufficient punishment for breaking the law without adding to one’s misery in these ways.
Mr. Holmes made an error and has lost his freedom as a result of that mistake. The concept of incarceration is meant to serve a purpose, which is two-fold: (1) rehabilitation of the offender so that he or she can return to the community and; (2) protection of the public.
Given all of the above, I write to appeal your decision to deny the application for prisoner transfer by Mr. Perley Holmes. It is in all of our interests that this happens and I hope you will reconsider.
Thank you for your attention to this matter of importance to Mrs. Sheila Holmes, Mr. Perley Holmes, their family, their community and our country.
Alex Atamanenko, MP
BC Southern Interior
CC: Perley Holmes
Don Davies, NDP Critic for Public Safety