No crime stops perks in prison


By Christie Blatchford
Monday, September 6, 2004 - Page A7

It now appears that Marcia Dooley and Mary Taylor did not, after all, attend what has come to be known as a "spa day" at the federal prison in Kitchener where they are housed.

Contrary to reports published over the weekend, the two convicted killers were not among the 16 to 20 women who availed themselves of what the Correctional Service of Canada, with its love of euphemism, prefers to call a day of "self-care" services last month.

According to Diane Russon, CSC spokeswoman for the Ontario region, and the prison chaplain who organized the outing, Mrs. Dooley and Ms. Taylor didn't partake.

Not for them instruction in "how to file your nails properly and apply polish" or "basic skin-care techniques," the talk by a naturopath or demonstration of rekai massage or a tea where a volunteer harpist entertained.

But oh my, what an instructive glimpse into the Canadian prison system for women the case provides.

Mrs. Dooley and Ms. Taylor could have attended, for the spa day was open to all approximately 80 inmates at the Grand Valley Institution for Women, murderers and sexual predators included. If they didn't take part, it was because they didn't sign up, not because the brutal nature of their crimes or being relatively new inmates -- years and years away from potential release or the need to prepare for reintegration -- precluded their participation.

Mrs. Dooley was convicted of second-degree murder, along with her husband, Tony, in May of 2002, in one of the most savage child-abuse deaths in Canada.

And she was convicted as the actual killer of her seven-year-old stepson, Randy, with Ontario Court Justice Eugene Ewaschuk finding that she was the dear little boy's chief tormenter. The judge described her husband as equally morally guilty but less criminally responsible, a distinction that was reflected in the sentences he imposed on them: for the loving stepmother, 18 years before she will be eligible for parole, and for Randy's dad, 13 years.

Randy was a slight little fellow, only 3 feet 10 inches tall and not quite 42 pounds. He and his big brother, Tego, who is now 13, were brought to Canada from their native Jamaica to join their father and his new wife. As the trial, which I covered, heard, their eyes were full of stars about their new life in a new country when they landed. They were quickly disabused of any such foolish notion.

Randy bore the full brunt of Mrs. Dooley's considerable rage: At the time of his Sept. 25, 1998, death, he had at least 13 broken ribs, a lacerated liver, a crushed adrenal gland, a broken bone in his back, a damaged diaphragm and a subdural hemorrhage in his brain. It was the latter that killed him, and experts testified that it likely took him a very long time to die, perhaps six hours. In the twilight of his life, he suffered a seizure, and Mrs. Dooley placed him into a tub full of cold water, tried to jam ice past his soft lips with a spoon (this may have been when the tooth that was recovered at autopsy in Randy's tummy was smashed out of his mouth), and left him alone. Tego found him in a darkened bathroom, and carried him to the bed they shared, dressed him in clean pajamas and lay beside him as he passed.

Mary Taylor, like Mrs. Dooley, was deemed the most criminally responsible for a death, this one of Toronto Police Detective Constable Bill Hancox, though she was not the one who plunged a knife into the officer's chest. That was Rose Cece, the lover who was also convicted in the murder.

But Ontario Court Judge David Watt found that Ms. Taylor was the instigator (she had urged Ms. Cece to kill Det. Constable Hancox to prove her love), and sentenced her to 18 years of parole ineligibility, Ms. Cece to 16.

Det. Constable Hancox was on an undercover stakeout in an east-end Toronto mall when the two women, desperate, broke and low on crack cocaine, came upon him, not realizing he was a police officer. Intending to commit suicide, they changed their minds and decided to steal his van but instead took his life, leaving his wife, Kim, then eight months pregnant with their second child, to raise their youngsters alone.

The murder of a vulnerable child; the casual killing of an on-duty police officer: Surely these are crimes that most offend the public.

Yet within two and four years respectively, Mrs. Dooley and Ms. Taylor are serving their time at an institution providing "residential-style accommodation" (meaning small houses, not cells) designed for minimum- and medium-security inmates and where nail and skin care are deemed to have rehabilitative value.

The CSC's Ms. Russon, citing the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, noted yesterday that the government is bound to house prisoners at the least-restrictive level possible. Women, she said, are deemed to rate maximum security only if they pose a danger to public safety and are escape risks or have shown poor adjustment to prison life. Merely being convicted of a heinous crime doesn't translate to maximum security, and neither does posing a safety risk -- both descriptions that would surely apply to Mrs. Dooley and Ms. Taylor.

Canadians have long understood that a life sentence, such as was passed upon Mrs. Dooley and Ms. Taylor, may mean nothing of the sort, and that after serving 15 years, most convicted killers can try for early release under the "faint-hope" clause. Canadians understand that the guiding principle of their correctional system is that prisoners are people first, and entitled to punishment that is neither cruel nor inhumane.

But most of us probably imagined that child and cop killers did a few years of hard time, that the despicable nature of their crimes counted for something, even within the confines of a properly civilized prison system. Now we know they don't, and it doesn't.

It was plain at her trial that Marcia Dooley knew all about self-care; no wonder she didn't sign up for the spa day. It was in the care of others that she needed a little help. I do wonder what they're offering in that regard at Grand Valley.