Correctional Service Canada spent more than $15,000 to send convicted sex offender Donnie Snook to his father’s funeral in St. John’s, N.L., according to records obtained under federal access to information.
The records show the agency paid to have two officers accompany Snook, who is serving 18 years and three months in prison for sexually abusing boys over two decades in two provinces.
The former Saint John city councillor and youth pastor was granted an escorted temporary absence from prison following the death of his father on Feb. 24.
The funeral was held on March 1, though it’s not clear exactly how much time Snook spent in St. John’s.
An officer with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary previously told CBC News that Snook was only allowed “to attend particular locations” while accompanied by correctional officers, and he was housed at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary, a provincial jail, overnight during his stay.
CSC declined a request for an interview about Snook’s escorted temporary absence.
The agency also declined to identify where Snook travelled from, citing privacy legislation. As of 2014, Snook was serving his sentence at a prison in Mission, B.C.
Snook may have to help pay expenses
Snook’s trip cost $15,183.16 in total, records show.
The biggest expense was 98.5 hours of overtime for the two officers who accompanied him. That cost $6,829.61.
CSC paid $5,852.70 for flights to and from St. John’s for Snook and the two officers, plus $94.50 in baggage fees and $138.60 in fees paid to HRG, a travel management company.
Snook’s meals cost $173.60, while CSC paid $720.80 to feed the two correctional officers during the trip.
While Snook stayed at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary, CSC had to pay for hotel costs for both correctional officers, totalling $978.56. It also covered the costs of a rental car, fuel and airport parking.
Snook may have to cover some of the costs himself.
An inmate released on a temporary absence can be asked to contribute to expenses, which would involve dipping into the fund where prisoners keep their prison earnings and other money.
Absences can help reintegrate inmates
Temporary absences can be granted for a number of reasons, including community service, medical, compassionate, parental responsibility and personal development reasons, CSC spokesperson Marie Pier Lécuyer wrote in an email.
In the case of a temporary absence for compassionate reasons, the purpose is “to allow the inmate to attend to urgent matters affecting the members of his/her immediate family or other persons with whom he/she has a close personal relationship,” she said.
Absences can be granted in cases where the “releasing authority” is sure the inmate won’t “present an undue risk to society during the absence” by reoffending, according to the CSC. A “structured plan for the absence” must be prepared.
Statistics from the CSC show 2,566 offenders received escorted temporary absences from prison during the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Temporary absences are not as common as Catherine Latimer would like them to be.
Such absences can help prepare inmates for when their sentences are over, said Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society.
“What you’re doing is ultimately reducing the risk to public safety by preparing people adequately to reintegrate into the community in a crime-free manner,” Latimer said.
“That is usually fostered and helped by a series of graduated releases, where they’re supported and supervised in the community. Temporary absences have a key role in that.”
Crimes shocked city
In the case of a compassionate temporary absence, Latimer said, prisoners can feel “alienated” from their families and communities if they can’t attend a significant event such as a parent’s funeral.
“The studies clearly indicate that retaining community and family support is very important in terms of successfully reintegrating back into the community,” she said.
“I think, generally, it’s extremely important for prisoners to be able to attend the funerals of their parents and other loved ones.”
Snook’s crimes shocked Saint John, where he ran a popular hot lunch program for inner city children.
In October 2013, Snook, then 41, was sentenced to 18 years in prison after he admitted to 46 sex crimes against 17 children, including sexual assault, making and distributing child pornography and extortion.
Snook is also serving an additional three months after he pleaded guilty in November 2013 to child exploitation charges involving a boy under the age of 14 in his native Newfoundland and Labrador, dating back to the mid-1990s.
Snook was eligible for full parole this year but waived the parole review that was scheduled for May, according to the Parole Board of Canada.
His next legislated review for full parole will be in April 2024.
This story originally appeared on CBC