Cross Country Checkup

26 years after her husband's murder, Vancouver woman helps prisoners live 'redeemable' lives

Marion Haythorne now volunteers at a woman's prison because she believes in rehabilitation.

Marion Haythorne says many prisoners know they had to be punished, and want to improve

Marion Haythorne now works with prisoners to rehabilitate themselves. (submitted by Marion Haythorne)

Marion Haythorne said the murder of her husband inspired her to help improve the lives of prisoners.

Marion Haythorne and her husband Geoffrey Cragg. Cragg was killed by a home invader 26 years ago. (submitted by Marion Haythorne )

Twenty six years ago, her husband, Dr. Geoffrey Cragg was stabbed three times by an intruder in their Calgary home. 

Sheldon Klatt, then 22, was arrested and found guilty of second-degree murder.

After Cragg's murder, Haythorne, who now lives in Vancouver, followed the offender's progress through the prison system by attending parole hearings.

It was then that she realized the offender's actions were based on his upbringing, which, she said, resulted in "one stupid mistake one night."

"You think you're going to feel better when the guy is put away for 25 years. But you know what? It doesn't help. It really doesn't, when you get right down to it," she said in an interview with Checkup host Duncan McCue.

Klatt was sentenced to 25 years in prison with no chance of parole. He was eventually released after applying for parole a few times.

Restorative justice 

Haythorne said after her husband's death, many people told her that she would find closure when his killer was "punished to the ultimate."

But she said Klatt's long sentence didn't provide that comfort. Instead, she found herself wanting to see her husband's killer rehabilitated.

On Sunday's episode of Checkup, callers weighed in on whether Canada's correctional system should rehabilitate or punish criminal offenders. 

John Conroy, a lawyer in British Columbia, said the most effective way for victims of crime and offenders to find closure is through restorative justice, a system of criminal justice that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation.

However, Conroy said that can only be achieved if both parties agree to take part. 

"It's obviously not ever possible to put things back to the way they were for the family," he said. 

"But if the family can see that this person has genuinely accepted responsibility, is truly remorseful and contrite and has taken steps to change [their] ways...then I think it's more positive to do something like that." 

Marion Haythorne now volunteers at the Fraser Valley Institution for Women in Abbotsford, B.C. (Correctional Service of Canada )

Volunteering at prison

For Haythorne, her experience dealing with her husband's murder led her to want to make things better for offenders. 

About five to six years ago, she start volunteering at the Fraser Valley Institution for Women, a prison in Abbotsford, B.C. 

At the prison, Haythorne said the women there are able to take part in several programs to work on their anger management and self esteem. She added that some inmates have also found work inside the prison. 

They are working very hard to get out and live redeemable lives- Marion Haythorne

Haythorne added that she's noted many women in the prison have lived "horrible lives." However, she says many of them are eager to improve themselves.

"These are women who've made horrible mistakes. They know it. And they know they had to be punished," she said.

"They are working very hard to get out and live redeemable lives."

Written Samantha Lui and Mitch Thompson. With files from CBC's The Current.