Over the years many mistakes have been made about the parole of killers. It is a balancing act of risk assessment and ultimately trust. Parole is a reality of our western judicial systems. One compelling argument for early release is that when a sentence nears its end, what do you do? Is it better to have a trial period where a criminal can be given freedom with restrictions or to just release after the full term?
The trial period with restrictions argument was one that the head of the parole board stated in the case of Jamie Curtis. Greg Barns, a barrister in Tasmania, spoke during an Australian 60 Minutes documentary about Curtis. He gave a very reasonable case for not only allowing parole for this murderer but actually allowing it twice. I think he is totally wrong and displays a disassociated view of risk. I think he and people like him are delusional and arrogant. I also find they are naïve. What do you think?
The Need for a System of Parole
There is a belief that prison should not be about punishment. I agree with that. Where I do not agree is the view that it should be about rehabilitation. The thing is it is a central part of much that forms policy and has done for a long time.
So if a sentence of say 30 years is imposed then at some point most prisoners will be eligible for release.
30 years is a long time. If you don’t want them to be back in in no time you best try and give them the resources to live when released. They went into prison for crime. You don’t want them to go back to crime so?
The resources can be education, rehabilitation programs to break the bad behaviour of old and work skills. A prisoner who is a prisoner for any length of time will have been away from society as it moves on. Their family and friends might well have drifted and lost touch. They might literally have no-one on the outside for support and no way of developing that group. After all they will have been in prison and will probably be at the bottom of the popularity list. At least in many social circles anyway.
I mentioned above the idea of using parole as a way of checking a prisoner can be trusted while having in place the ability to bring the prisoner back in quickly. In fairness parole boards are necessary because prison reformers and other groups tend to be opposed to ‘whole life’ sentencing.
The last reason I can think of that supports early release/ parole options is it gives violent prisoners incentive. If you have nothing to lose then you could just keep killing people or at least assaulting them. That can be other prisoners, guards or civilian staff. If you can look at a long sentence with the hope it might end one day you might just behave yourself.
Why I Think Parole for Violent Crime is Silly
All the above reasons for early release sound logical. Where I differ is that often the human rights of the convicted are sited as motivations for parole. I often hear that a criminal has ‘ paid their debt’. I often hear that they deserve their freedom.
Some minor crime and youthful crime I would debate with sympathy. As I say I don’t believe there is value in punishment by the state. It seems a waste of time. I do think that prison can make a person seriously think if their actions are worth the time. It might make them wonder if they want to do it again, but once they have been in prison multiple times, yet still offend, the punishment argument seems weak. My view of sentencing and prison is a simple one.
I see prison as a place where those who present significant risk go to die. I use the analogy of the rogue tiger. A tiger is down near the river. It has been seen many times. The villagers use age old tactics to frighten it away. It is the modern world and they don’t want to kill it. They think it is safe. A child goes to fetch water and the tiger kills the child.
The villagers go and kill the tiger. It is not like the other tigers now. It is not like the tigers people want to see in the wild or the ones that are admired for their flashing eyes and stripes. It killed a child.
Even those that would claim it is the human encroachment on the tiger’s environment that is the problem tend to shut up for a while.
No-one suggests locking the tiger up and changing it. No-one suggests doing that and then releasing it back to the river bank. By killing the tiger the next child to go and get water is safer. That is seen as the best, most logical way of dealing with it.
You could debate what you do to keep people safe from the worst offenders when they are in prison. I advocate solitary with no exceptions. I understand that would offend many because of the undeniable effect on the prisoner but I don’t care. They can stay there gradually going mad. If there has been a travesty of justice there is still a chance of reversing it. After all those on death row do not go insane even after 20 years. There are ways of avoiding the worst cases of mental torture. Here I align with many reformers. I don’t care if they have a 60 inch colour TV and infinite streaming services and a hot tub. So long as they don’t come out I’m fine with whatever works.
Nevertheless murder is murder. The victims never ‘ serve their time.’ They are not given any time. We cannot kill the human tigers. We can ensure they are never out of a cage again.
Jamie Curtis, A Mindless, Useless Human Yet A Good Example
It was February 15th 1986 in Hobart, Tasmania. Curtis and a sixteen year old accomplice abducted a fifteen year old girl who was doing her paper round. They threw her in the back of their car and closed the boot lid ( trunk).
There was a loose screw driver in there and thankfully the girl escaped. That annoyed the 30 year old petty criminal and his mate. Sadly these ‘tigers’ knew where there was fresh prey. Living next door to Curtis was twenty two year old Dean Allie and his girlfriend, seventeen year old Tameka Ridgeway.
Ms Ridgeway awoke to the two criminals bursting into the apartment and assaulting Dean. There was no drug link, no previous dispute. Curtis and his evil mini me friend just wanted to do what they were doing. Reports said they had been patrolling all night as they drank. They were looking for someone to rape.
What followed was twelve hours of torture for the young couple. Ms Ridgeway was raped thirteen times by them. Mr Allie was beaten and scalded. The couple were driven out into the bush. There the assaults continued.
Curtis and co openly taunted them with how they would die. A chainsaw was started up, knives were flashed about. Finally they put Ms Ridgeway in the boot of the car and they led Mr Allie away. She could hear him pleading for his life. After fifteen minutes they returned and let her out. They then took her and showed her Mr Allie’s dead body. He had been stabbed to death.
All this time the fear they instilled, the pain they inflicted and the murder that Ms Ridgeway had to deal with prompted no mercy from Curtis. They drove her to a nearby village pub as they were hungry and wanted more beer. In the car park she tried to escape. Curtis dragged her back into the car by grabbing her hair. His sixteen year old murderous, raping, buddy punched her and they drove off. Notably Ms Ridgway says there were people outside the pub but they did nothing.
They parked near to where they had killed Mr Allie. There Curtis wanted to rape Ms Ridgeway again. They talked about killing her. She fought back and was knocked unconscious.
The pair of rapist/murderers had been drinking for a long time by this point. Being genius’ they fell asleep. Along came the farmer who owned the land they were next to. He poked Ms Ridgeway with a stick. She woke up. The farmer thought he had come across a party that had gone way overboard. She was half naked and beer cans were strewn around.
Ms Ridgeway was terrified and tried to run. The farmer got the picture and got her out of there. I read that when the cops got to the car the two rapists were still asleep.
Prison and Parole Twice
The sixteen year old drifted off into the system. Anonymity. That is a marvellous thing for such a cruel and twisted inadequate youth. Doubtless he did way less time than he should have done. Afterwards ( as has been the case in the UK) out he comes protected by the law. Maybe he re offends but hey! We wouldn’t get to know. Given the way these youths are moved about he might be next door to you. There seems to be a reciprocal agreement among many countries to allow international resettlement.
Curtis? He did his bit in court and was told he was going to prison for good. Unfortunately society got all upset with itself in 2002. I think they did the same thing here. You couldn’t have a whole life sentence anymore. Curtis was given a fixed sentence of 30 years. That meant he could get parole in 2016.
By then Mr Allie had done the same amount of time dead. In 2016 Curtis was refused parole. It noted the reasons as being psychopathic traits that could not be treated. That at least was fair because Mr Allie was still dead.
Incredibly the incurable issues that meant Curtis was a threat were OK in 2018 and he was released. He then went on multiple dating sites using a false name. That breached his conditions of parole. He is also alleged to have assaulted his new girlfriend. She denies this . He was returned to prison. Mr Allie on the other hand remained dead throughout this.
Currently Curtis is out. They gave him parole again. This time he wears an ankle tag while he enjoys the sunshine. I saw him driving a really cool looking pick up truck. The Australians really like them. They are cars with a pick up flat bed. He is back with the girlfriend.
He had shades on and looked pretty good for a man in his early 60s. Mr Allie is still dead. Ms Ridgeway in interviews looks every inch the damaged woman you would expect. For years she was not allowed by law to talk publicly about what the two murderer rapists did. Strange that eh? The sixteen year old monster gets anonymity, Mr Allie gets killed, Ms Ridgway is raped and terrorised. Then the state tells her to keep her mouth shut or else.
Are Some Crimes Too Bad for Parole?
You might notice I mention Mr Dean Allie’s name a lot. That could be seen as my believing that Curtis should be deprived of life as punishment because Mr Allie can’t enjoy the same things as his killer does. Well I do feel like that. Unlike the deluded parole board, feelings are not what forms my conclusion.
A tiger kills a child at the water hole because it is a tiger. It has no mercy. You could argue it has personality disorders and psychopathic traits that cannot be cured if you like. So you let it back near the river because you think another child is worth the risk?
The Tasmanian Parole Board has let Curtis out. At least it believes another young couple are a trade off if necessary.
‘Greg Barns, Chair of the Prisoners Advisory Legal Service in Tasmania, says parole boards make a calculated decision, based on balancing and managing risk. He said while no system is perfect, and parole authorities do get it wrong, the majority of the time they do get things right.’
Ah but when you get it wrong Mr Barns what happens? Someone dies.
Have a look at the 60 Minutes Documentary. You can hear this very clever man say it for yourself.
Tell me what you think.
Another case that is very similar has just come up in the UK. A murderer called Colin Pitchfork has been released in his early 60s. In the 1980s he raped and killed two children. He was sent away for good, but changes allowed him to get a fixed term. The two girls remain dead. The family remain in torment. Our system allows them one privilege. They get to see their children’s killer walk out to live a life they cannot.