December 11, 2018

BY GARRETT BURCHETT

Steven Pratt is an anomaly. Perhaps that is true. Or perhaps that is just a justification.

Pratt spent 30 years in a maximum security prison for the murder of Michael Anderson in 1984. His sentenced served, he returned to the world in October 2014, only to kill his own mother two days later.

While this example took place in the U.S., it is foolish to believe our own prison systems are head and shoulders above our counterparts to the south.

For many, this would seem to be a warning call, a heartbreaking example of why violent crimes should be met with longer and harsher sentences. But we as a society should look harder when placing blame.

Pratt was 15 when he was tried as an adult and convicted. He entered the prison system barely a man, and the experience seems to have stolen from him a chance at a normal life upon his release.

If he had problems in 1984 when he shot and killed his neighbour, what was his state of mind when he killed his 64-year-old mother?

Given the young age at which he was incarcerated, the state had 30 years to rehabilitate him. Maybe they were fooled into thinking he had changed. But the fact remains, Pratt was released from prison just as dangerous a man, if not more so, as the day he went in.

Prison is a way to keep society safe. But it needs to be more than that. It needs to be a place where men and women can improve their mental health, to see the error of their ways and work toward earning a second chance upon their release.

The Waterloo Region Record reported that, according to a 2014 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, 77 per cent of released prisoners in the U.S. were arrested for a new crime within five years. However, the rate among convicted murders was much lower.

There will be those who won’t change no matter what help is offered to them. But that does not mean we should give up on people who have made a mistake. We owe them a chance to succeed in life after they have served their time.

Was Pratt a psychopath? It wouldn’t seem so, given his breakdown and tearful admission of guilt in court after his mother’s murder. Maybe it was a call for help.

Perhaps part of the blame should fall on us.

The views herein represent the position of the newspaper, not necessarily the author.

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