Victim's family questions temporary leave granted to jailed drunk driver

The family of a woman killed by a repeat drunk driver is questioning the release practices of the institution where the inmate is serving a ten year sentence.

Repeat offender serving sentence at healing lodge

Justin Higginbotham does not believe the woman who killed his sister should be allowed out of prison on temporary escorted leave. ((CBC))
The family of a woman killed by a repeat drunk driver is questioning the release practices of the institution where the inmate is serving a 10-year sentence.

Norma Jean Mooswa was convicted following an accident on Canada Day in 2004 in which six people were killed. Mooswa, who was already suspended from driving because of an earlier conviction, slammed into a line of vehicles near the community of Cochin, Sask., about 175 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.

Mooswa is serving her sentence at a healing lodge, the Okimaw Ochi minimum security facility for native women in Maple Creek, in the province's southwest.

The Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge, near Maple Creek, Sask., is a minimum security prison for federally sentenced native women. ((CBC))
 The family of one of the victims has raised questions about why Mooswa is being allowed out on escorted passes.

Justin Higginbotham's sister, Tarrah, was one of the victims of the 2004 crash. He told CBC News he believes Mooswa's alcoholism and record of ignoring court orders makes her a risk to society.

"We want to know why is she leaving?" Higginbotham said, referring to the releases authorized by healing lodge officials. "How does this help her, to leave? Why can't this be dealt with inside the lodge? To me, that's my biggest question, is why do you have to leave the lodge to deal with this?"

Clare McNab, director of the lodge, says allowing inmates out on escorted absences is one way to prepare people for their eventual release.

"It is a gradual process, to help people to practise, I guess, if that's a good word — to go to the community and see how it is and see how they're going to do there," McNab told CBC News.

Norma Jean Mooswa was sentenced to 10 years in prison after the 2004 crash in which six people died. ((CBC))
 Mooswa has also applied to the National Parole Board for permission to leave the facility on her own without an escort.

Higginbotham and other family members spoke against that request during a parole board hearing on the matter.

The board turned down Mooswa's request, finding that she continued to pose a risk to the public.

Despite that, the healing lodge director has the authority to grant temporary, escorted releases for inmates for specific reasons.

In the accident, six people died and four others were injured when Mooswa, in a drunken state, drove at highway speed into a number of vehicles waiting to turn left.