No Help for Arsonist

A convicted arsonist says he's not getting the help he needs from the prison system.

Terry Anderson was released after serving part of a sentence for setting a fire at the Avalon Mall. But soon after he got out he was back at his old tricks.

Anderson says woodworking was all he learned in three stints in Dorchester Penitentiary. Nothing helped him with his compulsion to set fires. Now, after setting his 27th fire he's back in jail.

He set his latest fire in his halfway house after he'd only been living there four days. He set it in the oven, then called the fire department. He couldn't help it. Corrections Canada threw him back in jail to finish his full sentence.

He agrees he should be locked up but in a mental hospital, not a prison. "Mom and Dad separated and Dad caught the house on fire and since I was 12 years old I been dreaming about it and hearing voices."

Valerie Corcoran is an advocate for prisoners and ex-offenders. She says with inmates like Terry Anderson there's a dilemma between the public's safety and the needs of the offender. And, she says, public safety always comes first. "We have no alternative but to put him in prison but we don't have another institution where all his needs will be met."

Anderson doubts he'll ever break out of the vicious circle of offend, serve a sentence, get out and offend again. And again.