Toronto Star

November 3, 1999

Karla: her own words

[photo]
PETER POWER/TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO
KARLA HOMOLKA: Shown during her manslaughter trial in 1993.


She wants out.

And Karla Homolka is taking her plea to court.

After the warden at Joliette Institution in Quebec last month rejected her request for a series of escorted temporary releases for ``personal development and family contact,'' the 29-year-old killer asked for a judicial review.

In her handwritten application to Corrections Canada, contained in court documents filed to appeal the decision, Homolka states: ``I do not think it is in my best interests, nor anyone else's, for me to be released . . . without any type of gradual release.''

Inmates are eligible for temporary release from a prison, with an escort, the moment they set foot in a jail. But escorted temporary absence passes are usually only available for a few hours for emergencies, such as trips to a hospital; humanitarian reasons such as family emergencies; community service work or rehabilitative purposes.

Homolka has already been granted five escorted temporary absence passes since her incarceration at Joliette for medical reasons.

This time, she wants to use the passes to ``develop a positive and supportive social network, to break out of her social isolation and to get to know the city of Montreal,'' where she wants to settle after her release, states an assessment of Homolka's application written by her parole officer, Ginette Turcotte, and contained in the court documents.

I am requesting a six month program of escorted temporary absences (ETAs) to Maison Thérèse Casgrain Montreal, Québec. I am asking for these ETAs for two . . . reasons. First, I plan to live in Montreal upon my Statutory Release Date (SRD) which will occur in July 2001. I have never been to Montreal, I feel that it is essential that I get to know the city as well as the community resources that are available to assist me upon my release. I believe that through an ETA program I will be able to develop a positive support network along with reducing my social isolation. I have now served almost six years of a twelve year sentence without any type of release whatsoever. I do not think it is in my best interests, nor anyone else's, for me to be released . . . after eight years of incarceration without any type of gradual release to a place where I have never been and where I do not know anyone.

My second reason for requesting a program of SRDs is for the purposes of family contact. Ongoing family contact is extremely important to both me and my family. We have participated in the Private Family Visiting Program from the beginning of my incarceration. However, we both feel that it is time to begin visits outside of the prison setting in anticipation of my eventual release. My family is prepared to attend some of my ETAs for this purpose.

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. 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.

I completed my first program, self-esteem, in June 1995. In this program, I learned the importance of stating my opinion and standing up for myself. Assertiveness was stressed. This was the program in which I also learned to start to trust others again.

The second program I was able to take part in was anger management. (I took a refresher program in the summer/fall 1997). The biggest thing I learned in this program was that I did in fact feel anger. I was also taught that suppressing my anger is not a good thing to do and learned positive ways to express anger. This program also helped me to become more assertive.

I completed my third and fourth programs in June 1996. The Community Integration Program helped me to practice my skills in job search, writing resumés, and budgeting. Independent Living Skills taught me better ways of dealing and interacting with people, as well as coping with stress.

My next program, Improving Your Innerself, was completed in two parts (July 98 and February 99). This program has deeply impacted my life. In it, 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.

I am currently involved in the Survivors of Abuse and Trauma program. This program has enabled me to better deal with the physical, sexual and psychological abuse that I suffered. It has also helped me to lose my mistrust and self-doubt. I also was able to work on issues of shame, anger, intimacy, communication, confrontation, and guilt.

Throughout my sentence, I have been involved in individual psychological counselling. I have worked on a number of issues in my counselling: dealing with my crime, the abuse I suffered, shame, guilt, public reaction, inner strength, self-confidence, assertiveness, self-esteem, defense mechanisms, learning to take care of myself emotionally, anger, asking for help when I need it, grief, etc. The counselling I have had has really enabled me to get to know myself deeply.

I have also recently completed my Bachelor or Arts Degree with a concentration in psychology. I further plan to continue with my university education to obtan a further degree in criminology beginning this fall. Continuing on with my education has helped my self-esteem and confidence immensely. When I took my first course my self-esteem was so low that I believed that I couldn't succeed. Now I know that I can succeed in anything I put my mind to. Furthering my education will also put me in a better position to obtain a job when I am eventually released.

I believe that I have come an enormous distance since the beginning of my incarceration in the Prison For Women in Kingston. When I first entered prison, I was totally destroyed as a person. I was then segregated for four years and locked in my cell for 22-23 hours a day for 2 1/2 of those 4 years. I had absolutely no contact with the general population and everywhere I went I was escorted by a correctional officer.

Before I transferred to Joliette, people predicted that I would have an extremely difficult time integrating into population. When I first arrived, I did have some difficulties with some of the women, but I was accepted by the majority. I managed to integrate quickly with no major problems. Considering my history, I believe that this is a huge success for me. I think that my success in integrating is due in large part to all of the work I did on myself while in Kingston.

In addition to all of the above, I have behaved impeccably for the entire duration of my sentence. I have involved myself in both required and voluntary programs, have used my spare time productively, have done what is required of me, been respectful to staff, and have never received an institutional report.

I realize that this is quite a long application for a temporary absence. However, I believe it is necessary that I detail my progress over the last six years. I truly believe that, due to the objectives of my correctional plan being met, my excellent progress in dealing with the issues that caused me to commit my crimes, and the fact that I must begin a gradual release after six years of continued incarceration, I merit a six month program of ETAs. Thank you for considering my request.

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