Understanding criminal minds

Public outrage has stormed since news last week that the man who killed his three young children wanted to get out (of the psychiatric hospital where he has been confined since he was found not criminally responsible in their deaths) so he could go for coffee.

Public outrage has stormed since news last week that the man who killed his three young children wanted to get out (of the psychiatric hospital where he has been confined since he was found not criminally responsible in their deaths) so he could go for coffee.

Then Allan Dwayne Schoenborn was given supervised day leave.

That leave comes with a heap of conditions and restrictions, the B.C. Review Board has said. Those conditions include that he be supervised and have the permission of the director of the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital.

At the same time, John Bandura was also seeking leave from the psychiatric hospital. He attacked Bishop David Monroe in a church rectory; the bishop spent more than two months recovering.

Bandura has been granted unsupervised, overnight visits up to four weeks at a time, the review board decided.

Two men, dealing with mental illness according to the courts, both told they can have some access to the community.

The reaction in the community is one of outrage. From the outside perspective of those who haven’t been dealing with these men, it seems like they got off easy.

Our society hasn’t yet figured out how to really deal with those who have mental illness. By nature of their crimes, Schoenborn and Bandura don’t have a lot of public sympathy. In fact, they’ve probably done more to create fear toward their illnesses.

There are no easy answers in cases where innocent children are killed or where a man of the cloth is violently attacked without provocation.

These were heinous, repugnant crimes. Crimes that the communities where they occurred won’t soon forget. Crimes that make people sad, angry, disgusted.

So when Schoenborn kills his kids in 2008 and three years later is told he can go to Starbucks, or Bandura puts a bishop in hospital for weeks and then months later is granted unsupervised time away from the psychiatric hospital, people are naturally angry and outraged.

Even with the restrictions and conditions imposed on their outings, it appears these two men got a slap on the wrist.

There is a point at which most criminals have to reintegrate into society, if they can. Those with mental illness go into psychiatric hospitals instead of jails, and so they are treated differently.

Doug Sage at the Canadian Mental Health Society tried to illustrate how these cases are different by using the example of someone who has a heart attack while driving and rams into a crowd of people.

We wouldn’t blame the driver for his/her actions because it was illness that caused the incident.

Sage has no direct experience with Bandura or Schoenborn, but he noted that these men had no control of the wheel. The nature of their illnesses meant they didn’t know they were sick and delusional.

These crimes won’t be forgotten by the communities where they occurred. But there’s also no easy black-and-white answer to what is a grey issue — mental illness — that our society is reluctant to deal with.

At a certain point, there has to be responsibility and healing and moving forward. Most people don’t feel these two have paid the price for their crimes and that’s something the people responsible for their limited releases will have to answer to.

We don’t need to forget, but perhaps, once the anger has subsided somewhat, we can try to understand something that seems impossible to comprehend. Mental illness is all around us, and we live in fear of it instead of educating ourselves about it.

— From the Kamloops Daily News.