Only one halfway house in Canada accepted this high-risk offender
Chris Watts, a convicted sex offender and assessed psychopath, was released from a British Columbia prison in 2017, not a single halfway house in the province would take him. His native province, Ontario, was cut out by federal officials over allegations he had threatened police there. Quebec denied him too.
The 58-year-old long-term offender was flown to Nova Scotia, for reasons unknown. According to CBC, Watts has spotted riding a bike and taking the bus in the two-hours-per-day limit he has for leaving the facility. He is currently housed in the Jamieson Community Correctional Centre, a halfway house run by Corrections Canada in Halifax.
Watts is one of approximately 440 offenders on release across the country under “long-term supervision orders”, a measure established in the Criminal Code in 1997.
From 2015-2017, he repeatedly violated rules imposed by parole officers and the Parole Board of Canada. He was suspended six times and finally shipped out of B.C.
Watts’s worrisome behaviour while on release in B.C., according to parole board records, included secretly recording a meeting with his parole officer, hiring a business to print him out pictures of women in lingerie, and possessing a DVD called “Whore’s Glory”. Officers suspected he was planning to set up a “Piggyleaks” website to upload photos and videos of prison guards and police officers.
With no choice left, it was decided he was to be sent to Nova Scotia. There are no “security concerns in the Halifax area which can preclude him from residing at Jamieson CCC,” said a Corrections Canada intelligence officer. Watts does not want to go to Nova Scotia, and his trying to have a judge order his return to B.C.
“This place, it’s out in the middle of nowhere,” Watts said in a phone interview. “It takes you time to go anywhere. There’s no carpeting, there’s no plants, there’s no pictures. It’s just like an institution … I hate this place.”
Corrections Canada has more than 200 contracts with non-governmental agencies across the country that run community-based residential facilities, known as halfway houses. Their main aim is to bridge the gap between prison and community. The Federal government runs a similar service, but for high-risk offenders, called Community Correctional Centres (CCC).
A Corrections Canada spokesperson said there are rules surrounding curfews and leave privileges. Video surveillance, urine-testing, signing in and out using a log sheet, and in some cases, electronic monitoring.
Watts is not allowed access to the internet or a computer. He types his court applications on a typewriter and is banned from local libraries. He denies he was a threat to parole officers and other staff in B.C., and said he is “absolutely not” a risk to the public.
Leif Jensen, a Saskatoon lawyer, said long-term offenders are, by their nature, “very difficult to manage.” However, he said the restrictions in the Watts case strike him as particularly stiff.
“The Supreme Court always says rehabilitation is a critical component of reintegration, and I’m just not sure how you can get any kind of reintegration or rehabilitation off of two hours in an industrial area,” he said.
Muise, a former parole board officer, says its “problematic” to send Watts across the country as he has family living in B.C. For Canadians that “don’t give a crap about that,” Muise has a warning: One day, Watts’s long-term supervision order will expire. For the sake of public safety, his proper reintegration is vital.