National Post

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Thursday, November 04, 1999

Unpoetic justice
National Post

Karla Homolka, the serial child-killer, kidnapper and rapist, has never been lacking in self-esteem. She once instructed the guests to her wedding to give her money, not "crappy presents." And when asked on cross-examination to explain how she managed to read a book while her husband was butchering Leslie Mahaffy to death right in front of her, she told the court, "Well ... it's possible to do more than one thing at a time!"

Pitiless toward her child victims, Homolka can still feel considerable pity for herself. Although she has spent fewer than six years in prison (of a 12-year manslaughter sentence), Homolka wrote this week to Corrections Canada complaining that her constitutional rights had been violated because she was denied the chance to be transferred to a halfway house in Montreal.

"After serving almost six years of my sentence and completing many programs, I believe that I am now prepared to benefit from a program of ETAs [escorted temporary absences]," reads Homolka's application. She continues: "I have worked hard at my programs and have met the required objectives of my correctional plan. My programs, counselling and school studies have taught me many things about myself and have helped me to change in extremely positive ways."

According to her complaint, Homolka has recently finished a program called "Improving Your Inner Self." "This program has deeply impacted my life," she claims. "I learned to get rid of my mistrust, self-doubt, misplaced guilt, and defence mechanisms. I am now completely in touch with my inner feelings. My self-esteem is now quite high and I am fairly easily able to deal with confrontation. I think my biggest gain from this program is my dramatic increase in assertiveness."

But is a dramatic increase in assertiveness something we should want to encourage in serial killers and rapists? Or getting in touch with their inner feelings? Or self-esteem? Surely Homolka should be seeking repentance, shame and forgiveness -- and if they were present, she might have some slight grounds for her appeal.

If, however, she were truly repentant, she would surely want to atone for what she has done. Ian Brady, one of the two "Moors Murderers" in Sixties Britain who was guilty of crimes similar to those committed by Homolka, has since refused to seek release on the grounds that anyone guilty of such horrendous acts deserves to remain in prison indefinitely.

By her deal with the prosecutors, Homolka has escaped that fate. She should realize that she was let off very lightly with a 12-year sentence -- which she should serve down to the last minute.

And her psychology courses in prison should be devoted to instilling this acceptance rather than, as appears to be the case, justifying her misperception of herself as some kind of victim.

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