Kimberly Squirrel was released from the Pine Grove provincial jail for women in Prince Albert Sask. on Jan. 20. Three days later her frozen body was found near a street corner in Saskatoon.
At the time, the temperature was -33. Squirrel, from the Yellow Quill First Nation, was a mother to six children.
Shirley Isbister, president of the Central Urban Metis Federation Inc., in Saskatoon which helps homeless people with warm up stations and warm clothing, food and other essentials, says a better release plan might have saved her life.
“It’s a challenge we face no matter what time of the year there needs to be a point you can’t just drop someone off or take a bus or have transportation back to Saskatoon,” she said. “There needs to be a family connection because when you come out you need that connection to be able to start your life again.”
Criminal defence lawyer Aleida Oberholzer says female inmates don’t have access to the aftercare or reintegration programs they need.
“Unless you’re sentenced and you plead guilty to the charges there are very limited resources available especially to female clients for reintegrating back into society,” says Oberholzer who adds that it doesn’t end there.
Inmates who are not sentenced yet or plead guilty also don’t have access to reintegration planning.
“We focused a lot on reintegration to individuals who have admitted or plead guilty to crimes but those who are presumed innocent should have those same resources available to them.”
Noel Busse, a spokesman for the province’s ministry of justice, said it was Squirrel’s responsibility to notify corrections if she needed transportation.
“Corrections may provide transportation for offenders or individuals back to their home community upon release from any court point or correctional facility in the province of Saskatchewan. The first responsibility to obtain transportation lies with the offender. Once all personal efforts have been exhausted, the offender can seek assistance from Corrections. This policy has been in place for a number of years. ”
Busse said Squirrel was escorted to a bus leaving Prince Albert for Saskatoon after her release.
He said an internal review is presently being done.