North

Alberta prison official says programming again available for repeat offender

A temporary suspension of rehabilitative programming will likely not reduce the chances of a Northwest Territories man getting high-intensity sex-offender programming if he is sentenced to time in an Alberta prison, says official.

Psychiatrist says Johnny Simon needs programming to reduce 'high risk' of reoffending

The Bowden Institution near Calgary, Alta., is the only prison in Alberta that offers a high-intensity sex-offender program geared to Indigenous offenders. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

A temporary suspension of rehabilitative programming will likely not reduce the chances of a Northwest Territories man getting high-intensity programming if he is sentenced to time at an Alberta prison.

But a Corrections Service of Canada official testified on Wednesday that the longer the sentence given to Johnny Simon, the more likely he is to get a seat in the sex offender program, which is tailored to Indigenous offenders.

The prosecutor is applying to have the 39-year-old declared a long-term-offender. The application was made in N.W.T. Supreme Court after Simon was convicted in 2018 of sexual assaulting a woman in Inuvik.

It was the third time Simon has been convicted of sexual assault, according to records in his court file. His long criminal record also includes convictions for aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, break and enter and theft.

Testifying via telephone in a Yellowknife courtroom on Wednesday, an acting assistant warden at the Bowden Institution in Alberta said rehabilitative programing at the prison was just restarted a few weeks ago after being suspended since March due to Covid-19.

The Bowden Institution is the only prison in Alberta that offers a high-intensity sex offender program. The program begins with a six-week primer program and then consists of 117 classroom sessions over about four and a half months.

"There's a demand for it and a wait list that builds quite quickly," said Janice Glimsdale.

A psychiatrist who examined Simon said he needs sex offender counselling, as well as counselling for anger and substance abuse, if his risk of re-offending is to be reduced to an acceptable level.

In his report on Simon, University of Toronto psychiatrist Dr. Philip Klassen said that, left untreated, Simon is "a very high risk of intimate partner violence, a high risk of violent recidivism, and a high risk of sexual recidivism."

Klassen said even if Simon does get the programming he recommends to reduce his risk, he "could still pose supervisory problems; whether these would result in physical or sexual violence is somewhat less clear."

According to Klassen's report, Simon grew up in Fort McPherson. He said his mother was an alcoholic and he was largely raised by his grandfather, who physically and sexually abused him from age five or six to the time he was 18. Simon said he was also sexually abused by an uncle, as well as in a group home he was sent to.

Simon was sentenced to six and a half years in jail for an attack on his grandfather in Fort McPherson in 2008. His grandfather later died as a result of his injuries.

If declared a long-term offender, Simon would be subject to a long-term supervision order — similar to parole — for up to 10 years after serving his sentence for the sexual assault. The Parole Board of Canada sets the conditions someone must abide by while under a long-term supervision order.

The case continues on July 27, when both sides are scheduled to give their closing arguments.
 

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