According to Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwork Orange, his anti-hero, Alex, is “a creature who can only perform good, or evil…he has the appearance of an organism, but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by the almighty State.” Today, in his always lit and always guarded 8′ x 4′ solitary isolation cell, a security camera belonging to Correctional Services Canada keeps a video record of Paul Bernardo’s every twitch or sigh, and in his present circumstances, Bernardo is not so wholly different, from Alex.
Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo met in 1987, when he was 23 and she was 17. They married in 1991, six months after they raped and killed Karla’s sister, Tammy, and two weeks after abducting, raping and killing 14- year-old Leslie Mahaffy. The following year in April of 1992, 15-year-old Kristen French was the next young lady unlucky enough to cross paths with the Bernardos, and her fate would be the same as that of Tammy Homolka, and Ms. Mahaffy.
Bernardo and Homolka videotaped themselves sexually assaulting Ms. Mahaffy and Ms. French, and Karla’s sister, Tammy, but a three months-long evidence search of Paul and Karla’s home would fail to produce those tapes. Nothing tied Paul Bernardo to the murders except Homolka’s word, and Homolka claimed to be an abused wife forced to comply with the perverted wishes of her husband. In exchange for testifying against her partner-in-crime, Karla Homolka received two concurrent twelve year sentences, for manslaughter.
Eight months before Bernardo’s trial began, however, the prosecution came into possession of the videotaped evidence, and no longer needed Homolka’s testimony to convict Paul Bernardo. Still the Crown would not revoke the plea bargain, which was widely denounced as “the deal with the devil.”
Shortly after his trial Paul Bernardo was declared a “Dangerous Offender”, a designation which allows the Crown to indefinitely extend his original 25-year prison term.
To demonstrate the effectiveness of the Ludovico Technique, a form of aversion therapy combining violent, sexual images with nausea-inducing drugs, in A Clockwork Orange the ruling political party gathers an assortment of government workers and officials in an auditorium. They watch as Alex, who has recently suffered through this two-week “treatment” program, is baited and assaulted by State-hired actors.
Alex’s only real protector is the prison chaplain, and the chaplain is appalled by this display; he rises to his feet and cries: “Choice. The boy has no real choice, has he?…He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of choosing….if a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.”
Unless Paul Bernardo is linked to acts of terrorism we’re additionally unaware of, the United States would never have gone to the lengths Canada has to incarcerate him safely. His present circumstances are the culmination of Canadian law and order thinking; the Crown can assure its people that Paul Bernardo lives somewhat comfortably but under constant guard. It isn’t like those dangerous American prisons, they can say, and Bernardo suffers no evil there, with one exception: the ideal of liberty, lionized in pre-and post 9/11 America, is woefully lacking in Canadian penological thought.
In America, our concept of liberty and the role of government are inextricably bound. If we feel a right’s been denied us, we will civil disobedience our way into getting that right, regardless whether we have any idea what to do with it. We are a nation of children, we think simply, like children, and our country was born of scapegoats, and bluff-callers and rebels.
From Canada’s law and order perception, the United States is far too lenient with its prisoners, too lax in its ability to curtail their movement. If Jeffrey Dahmer had been a Canadian prison inmate, he would most certainly be alive today. While American popular opinion might regard Dahmer’s murder as none too great a loss, Correctional Services Canada would have regarded it as an enormous loss, to the morale of Canadian corrections officers, that is: there has not been a death by violence in a Canadian prison since 1971.
The United States has no comparable record. Jeffrey Dahmer chose to make his bed in the general population, and roamed the halls performing janitorial duties with no hue and cry from anyone about the inevitable outcome of such a loose arrangement. The emphasis is on liberty in America, and liberty is choice; perhaps choosing death-by-inmate isn’t prison policy, but it is liberty, in any state of the Union.
Having served her complete 12-year sentence for two manslaughter charges, Karla Homolka left prison in 2005; when the hullabaloo over Homolka sounded up again, with it came a tilt of the head back at Bernardo, whose current lawyer, Tony Bryant, stated, “Paul Bernardo is anxious to speak with the media, and re-assert what he has always maintained: Karla Homolka was responsible for the deaths of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French.” It is an altogether reasonable request by American standards. But not by Canadian ones, as Donna Marrin, the Warden for Kingston Prison for Men responded, “Correctional Services Canada does not at this time feel media attention for Paul Bernardo would be in his or the institution’s best interests.”
Under that restriction, it’s as well as not that inmate Bernardo was clinically diagnosed in ’94 as a malignant narcissist. By holding himself in such high esteem, he wouldn’t make an attempt to cheat the Crown and “snuff it”, and it’s only a bit of tangle for those of us given to thinking about such things that malignant narcissist Paul Bernardo has, for the last 15 years, been in the custody of a facility purporting to be ”correctional”.
When asked if the prisoner had, or was currently receiving any treatment or therapy such as that well afforded to Homolka, the official forthcoming answer was, “this is a non-issue for inmate Bernardo”, and some think all of this is still far more than is deserving; each year, Canada spends roughly $125, 000 for Paul Bernardo’s care and feeding, and he has a television, writing materials and books to read. More than once it’s been suggested he should think upon his evil ways, and suffer, and only a certain indelicacy prevents me from pointing out it’s not likely that he would, being an untreated malignant narcissist.
“If a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man”, the Padre in A Clockwork Orange says, so assuming the Kingston Prison for Men isn’t conducting zoological studies, the Crown spent over $11, 000, 000 of the taxpayer’s money to arrange the slow but sure entombment of enemy of the State Paul Bernardo; if anyone’s of the opinion Paul Bernardo has it too good, I suggest they try spending a week locked in a small closet with a light bulb over their head.
A 2006 newspaper article quotes a former Bernardo guard as saying during her time on that watch, “Paul was always cheerful.” Perhaps I am the only one much heartened by that news, but like the prison chaplain in A Clockwork Orange, I would also have to ask how much choice he has.
He has ceased to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of choosing; barred from speaking publicly about his case since two years before he was convicted, confined ’til death inside his always lit and always guarded 8′ x 4′ solitary isolation cell, for the last 15 years Paul Bernardo has maintained the appearance of an organism.
But in truth, he is Canada’s clockwork orange.