WARNING: This story contains some information that may be offensive to some readers.
A man convicted of numerous violent sexual assaults lost his bid to reverse a transfer to Mission Institution’s medium-security prison in the B.C. Court of Appeals on Nov. 27.
Clifford Barry Howdle’s transfer from the prison’s minimum-security facility occurred in 2018, after he started to display “eerily” similar behaviour to past criminal acts.
This included fixating on two female contract workers at the prison, and applying – without telling his parole officer – for an unescorted temporary absence to a community facility where one of the women worked.
Justice David Harris upheld a former 2018 judgment, which deemed Howdle a danger to the public safety, especially so if he were to escape.
“The decision to move him was well founded. It bears repeating that his placement in Mission Minimum was ‘conditional,’” Harris said. “[Similar behaviour] had precipitated his previous offences while on day parole.
“CSC made a judgment call to move him on this basis. The judge rightly deferred to that judgment.”
Howdle was convicted in 1995 for sexual assault and kidnapping. In 1999, while out on day parole from a minimum security prison in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Howdle went on a violent, 36-hour crime spree.
According to court documents, he raped his former girlfriend, drove to a random countryside house and raped an elderly woman and assaulted her husband, then tied them up and put them in the trunk of a car. He then drove to another home and raped a woman inside before attempting suicide.
Howdle was eventually convicted on 17 charges. He was declared a dangerous offender in 2003, which comes with an indefinite prison term.
Howdle was placed in Mission’s minimum security unit in 2017 at Correctional Service Canada’s (CSC) discretion. His placement came with certain expectations, such as attending weekly meetings with a parole officer and keeping logs of his risk factors and emotions.
His case management team were instructed to keep a cautious eye on him, and intervene quickly at any sign of deteriorating behaviour. In May, 2018, “this is precisely what happened,” according to court documents.
Although he had no documented security concerns in minimum security, did not require ongoing intervention from his case managers (CMT), and his escape risk was deemed low, Howdle’s behaviour deteriorated when questioned about his failure to adhere to CSC’s programming requirements.
Ultimately, his fixation on the two women, his admission of sexual fantasies and failure to log and manage them, his tendency for emotionally‑based decisions, and his “willingness to actively deceive” his CMT, were a “significant return to past behaviours.”
He was involuntarily transferred in May, a major concern being his previous “ability to cascade successfully through minimum security and then committing further offences while on day parole after being romantically rejected by a former institutional volunteer,” CSC said in the transfer form.
The assistant warden testified that prisoners at Mission Institution’s minimum-security prison are not directly controlled, there is little surveillance, and it has a lower tolerance for problematic behavior.
Inmates can freely approach staff at the prison without the employee being able to control the interactions, was an example the warden gave.
For his part, Howdle challenged many of the CSC’s claims. He said the transfer failed to address contradictory evidence, the judge erred in her analysis over the reasons for an immediate transfer, he did not receive proper disclosure of these reasons and he could have continue to be managed in a lower security environment.