Kayla Bourque redux

There has been a lot interesting comment on Kayla Bourque’s situation. Some of the comments I have received show a great deal of anger and misunderstanding of how our legal system works and the role personality disorders play in mental health. There are no easy answers in this type of situation however we must be mindful that fear and emotion do not drive the discussion.

Personality disorders fall on Axis II of the DSM. Wikipedia defines personality disorders as: “are a class of personality types and enduring behaviors associated with significant distress or disability, which appear to deviate from social expectations particularly in relating to other humans” (emphasis mine). I find it quite interesting that personality disorders are defined as behaviors that deviate from social expectations. It makes sense though when you realize that some behaviors, which may well be maladaptive in our society, may be extremely adaptive in other cultures.[1] Bourque has been diagnosed as having anti-social and sociopathic personality disorder. Human beings turn out as social creatures because our parents or caregivers nurture us and meet our needs. When a child fails to attach in a meaningful way they can, like dogs and cats, become feral. This may well be part of what happened to Bourque in a Romanian orphanage. When Canadians adopted children from these places many experts warned that these children may well be quite damaged and struggle in our society. I am sure there are far more successes than Kayla Bourques who came out of those places. I suspect that there is a necessary set of conditions that causes someone to become an animal killer. If Bourque had attached as an infant she may well have still struggled to some extent.

Personality disorders differ from mental illnesses, as they are innate. Mental illness is something that, in many cases, can be transient either through treatment or time. Personality disorders are with people for life. Sometimes the debilitating effects can be mitigated through intensive counselling and education however the prognosis is quite poor. Bourque really does not understand that what she has done is wrong. She is a predator. Given the opportunity she will likely kill someone as research has shown where the path she is on will lead. Will counselling help Bourque? I don’t think it is likely. She lacks compassion and empathy.

Our legal system is pretty clear on how this will play out. Canadian citizens have rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Amongst those rights is the right ‘not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.’ Our legal system is a reactionary; a crime is committed, a person arrested and charged. There are no provisions to lock someone up because they might commit a crime. So as much as our knee-jerk reaction is to want to lock her up forever we simply cannot justify it.

I commend the judge in this case who is taking the time to craft a set of parole conditions that will keep the public safe. In all likelihood Bourque will not be able to abide by these strict conditions and will end up back in jail. Once her parole is over she will no longer have restrictions on her liberty. It will then be up to the police to track her movements and hopefully keep society safe. I am sure this will come at significant cost to taxpayers. Personally, I think it will be money well spent.


[1] Now before anyone assumes that I think it is adaptive to kill and torture animals, I am not saying that in any way.

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Published in: on December 5, 2012 at 1:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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