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.

The dilemma of Kayla Bourque

Kayla Bourque
Kayla Bourque

Kayla Bourque is a 22-year-old woman from Prince George. She was born in Romania and spent the first 8 months of her life in an orphanage there. A Canadian couple then adopted and raised her. Kayla Bourque is also a sociopath on her way to becoming a serial killer. She has been serving time in jail for torturing and killing a dog and a cat and for having a ‘murder kit’[1] in her possession. Bourque has fantasized about killing people. Her mother is significantly scared enough that she does not want Bourque back in the family home.

Bourque is being kept in jail for an additional 2 months as the judge and probation officials work on a release plan for her. The conditions will be stringent and any breaches will see Bourque back in jail. Her prognosis very poor; she lacks insight or remorse into her crimes. Apparently she also had child pornography in her possession.

Bourque poses a clear and present danger to society. She has been diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder with sociopathic tendencies. Clearly Bourque is broken likely as a result of not bonding with a parent or caregiver in the first critical months of life. While not all children coming out of these environments will pose a risk to society, we know that not attaching properly is a risk factor for these kinds of behaviours. Unlike a mental illness there is no pill one can take for these kinds of personality disorders.

The question is how do we protect society while at the same time respect Bourque’s freedom? All of the professionals involved can pretty much predict that, left to her own devices, Bourque will kill someone. Our legal system is not predicated on prevention; rather it focuses on punishment after someone has been convicted of a crime. How can we justify locking her up for a crime she may commit?

I am quite torn about what to do with Kayla Bourque. After her 3 years of parole and restrictions on her freedom what will happen? Do the police watch her for the rest of her life? There has been some discussion about doing something through the mental health act however that is problematic given that personality disorders are not mental illnesses. Sadly there is no easy answer that protects society while balancing her rights to liberty.

[1] Including a razor blade, garbage bags and a hypodermic needle.