Impaired driver kills parents of 5 and serves only 7 months in jail

I was deeply saddened by the news that Chad Olsen was granted full parole this month. In 2010, he drove drunk and hit and killed Brad and Krista Howe leaving their 5 children (aged between 5 and 15) orphaned in an instant.

The Howe’s took part in this year’s MADD Canada’s school assembly program video which The Dude also participated in so I am very familiar with their story and felt an even deeper sense of sadness for them.

The 25-year-old only actually served 7 months in custody (custody being Bowden’s minimum-security annex, which houses low-risk inmates in dormitory-style bungalows outside the prison walls). So when you read that he spent time in a federal prison, let’s be clear. It was no Shawshank.

After 7 months, Olsen was granted day parole where he lived in a half way house and had to abide by a curfew and a condition banning him from drinking alcohol. Then…just this month he was granted full parole, which means he will serve out the remaining 2 years and a couple of months of his sentence in the community. He gets to live with his fiancé, work full-time, maybe go back to school etc. Whatever. The only 2 special conditions are that he abstains from alcohol and that he attends psychological counselling. And he has to check in with a parole officer.

He was granted full parole because the board found that he did not pose undue risk to the public and full parole would help him ease back into full integration with society.

Well isn’t that swell!

I am sure if you had asked any of Olsen’s friends and family before the crash, they would have said he didn’t pose an undue risk to the public.

I understand about rehabilitation. I understand about re-integration but what about the victims’ and society’s right to expect an offender to face and serve adequate consequences for the nature of the crime? Two people lost their lives, 5 children will grow up orphans, some so young they likely won’t even really remember their parents.

It shouldn’t be just about his risk factor to reoffend, how sorry he is and what a “good” person he really is. It should also be about all of that AND whether he paid his debt and faced appropriate consequences for his actions.

Olsen’s blood alcohol level was 3 times over the legal limit. He ran a red light doing 85 KM an hour. He KILLED 2 people who were only 34 and 35 years old and had 5 children depending on them. He did that. He made that choice.

How is 7 months custody, 9 months day parole, and 2+ years full parole even close to adequate?

In a news report, Olsen is quoted as saying he’s not a terrible person; he just made a terrible mistake.

And I get that. To be frank, if I knew him I’d likely even agree with him. I’d probably feel sorry for him and wish the whole thing had never happened. But that’s not the point. It doesn’t matter how “good” of a person he was/is, how sorry he is, or what a “terrible mistake” it was. It was a choice. A choice to drive drunk that cost the lives of 2 very innocent people and the consequences for that choice need to be paid. Period.

I am stunned. That this is what Brad and Krista’s lives were worth according to our justice system? 7 months in jail? That’s it?

Sure day parole and full parole have restrictions but come on! Olsen is living with his fiancé, has a full-time job, is thinking about going back to school, and is reintegrating back into life with family and friends with Christmas on the horizon. While the Howe children are wondering how to get through another holiday without their parents. They are the ones serving a life sentence for his choices.

How can any read this story and think “oh yeah, if it was my Mom and Dad he ran down drunk and killed, I’d be cool with him only serving 7 months…and getting full parole after only 16 months…I mean, he didn’t mean to do it, right?!”

And what message does this send out? What does this say to other potential offenders?

To me, it says that our system is a joke.

I commend the family for their response to his parole. Krista’s mother is quoted in the news as saying that if Olsen follows through with his plans to give back to the community, including plans to talk to high school students about the dangers of drinking and driving, then full parole is a good thing. She hopes something good can come out of all it going as far as saying that she’d welcome Olsen joining forces with her to fight for increase impaired driving penalties.

Having just sat in a parole board hearing wondering if the drunk driver that killed my mother-in-law would be released after serving only 14 months in the not-really-a-jail jail, I don’t think I could have been as kind.

Nope.

She’s a braver woman than I.

Olsen’s release comes just days before new legislation for impaired drivers will take effect in Alberta on September 1. Maybe had these initiatives been in place, the Howe’s would still be with us. Alas, I know hubby and I have played the “what if” game a zillion times. I know hubby has been tormented and guilt-ridden wondering what he could have done differently that would have altered his Mom’s choice to be on the road that day. But in the end, we can’t look back because we can’t change anything. All we can do is look forward towards prevention.

Police have said in various news reports that they feel the new strengthened legislation will give them more tools to deal with impaired drivers.

I say HOORAH to that!

And to the non-supporters of the new legislation, I say “lose a loved one to this crime and then come talk to me. Until then, shut your pie hole and pound sand!

What do you think about day and full parole? Do you think the nature of the crime and the impact on victims should be taken into consideration before an offender is conditionally released? How do we determine “appropriate consequences” for crimes? How do you let go of the “what if” game? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

On August 1, 2009, my beautiful mother-in-law’s life was cut tragically short by an impaired driver and my stepson’s life changed forever. In honor of Donna and Jordan Kennie, please don’t drink and drive. Impaired driving is 100% preventable. Think about it.

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