So last week, a 23-year-old man named Stephen Anthony Charlie pleaded guilty to procuring a 15-year-old girl for the purpose of prostitution. He chose his target well. The girl was a high-risk, vulnerable teen who had already discovered how low some men can go when they have a chance to dominate and terrorize a weaker person.
By all accounts, Charlie offered the girl an opportunity to escape one abusive relationship (the man she was staying with was charged with repeated assaults against her; she was addicted to drugs and alcohol, had no money, job or any parental support) and enter into another.
According to the provincial court records, Charlie wooed the girl and then made her turn tricks via the Internet to support his lifestyle. The story is as old as time and it never gets any better with the retelling. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those morality tales that suddenly gets rewritten with a happy ending. There is no mention of counselling, rehabilitation or mentoring to turn either of these lives around. One goes to jail and the other continues down a path that will in all likelyhood lead to an early grave.
The judge in this case decided three years behind bars was a just sentence for Charlie’s crimes. Although he was sentenced to three years for procuring, three years for aiding and two years for extortion, the last two crimes were freebies as the sentences are to be carried out concurrently.
Pity that instead of the Tories’ ridiculously draconian plan to get tougher on crime, we can’t use the charges that are already on the books to rehabilitate our inmates. If three years is a fair sentence for the crime, fine. Send Charlie to jail for three years and let him experience what lack of freedom is all about. When that three years is up, there is still five years on his sentence. For the second three years, send him to a half-way facility that specializes in addiction, counselling and reintegration. Educate and teach him a needed and employable skill. Through weekly meetings with such groups as PEERS and the Men’s Trauma Centre, show him that women aren’t whores and how his actions affect another human being.
With two years left, depending on how he has adapted and changed, reintegrate him into society. Don’t dump him at the gates of the prison with bus fare, but offer employment and residency and let him walk those first steps back to freedom. As for the girl, patch over those cracks she has fallen into and offer her the same support, education and counselling that society should never deny one of its broken children.
We have failed her. And with our various levels of government spending too much damn money on the wrong things, such as the HST debacle, we will undoubtedly fail even more. We need to stop looking for ways to build more prisons and instead seek solutions that work. M