Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Woman seeks prison time to get her life back

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A Winnipeg woman tearfully begged a judge for a longer sentence Thursday, saying she needs extensive help to get her troubled life back on track.

Kayla Allen, 28, pleaded guilty to a residential break-and-enter that occurred in 2008. She cut herself during the incident, leaving a trail of blood behind that allowed police to submit for DNA analysis.

It took four years for the forensic lab in Regina to get the result back to Winnipeg police, then another two years before investigators finally got around to arresting Allen.

She has now been in custody since May and realizes the only way to break a vicious cycle of addiction is for a lengthy stay behind bars, which will allow her to get much-needed treatment and therapy, court was told.

As a result, lawyers made a joint recommendation for a two-year sentence to be served in a federal penitentiary, on top of time already served. That 27-month total sentence is much longer than a person would typically get for a single break-and-enter into an unoccupied house that dates back six years.

"She put it to me, that this is 'my last chance to save my life,' " defence lawyer Bruce Bonney told court.

Provincial court Judge Rocky Pollack expressed concern about the length of the punishment but went along with the request after Allen spoke candidly in court about the help she requires.

"I just want this sentence. I just want to find myself," she said in tears. "When I get out, I want to go to a halfway house to get reintegrated because I have nowhere to go."

Allen has no real family or friends in the community and is "hopelessly addicted" to crack cocaine and crystal meth, court was told. She has no memory of the 2008 crime, but can't dispute that she committed it given her blood was all over the scene.

More than $2,500 in jewelry was stolen during the break-in and never recovered. Allen assumes she likely pawned it for drugs but can't recall doing so, her lawyer said. "It's an unusual case. There are times judicial discretion is exercised in directions maybe not anticipated," Pollack said in agreeing to the federal sentence. He noted this case is not to be seen as a new benchmark for crimes of this kind, but rather a unique set of circumstances.

Allen has only a minor prior criminal record from 2006 but has otherwise stayed out of trouble, court was told. She will now get access to long-term federal programming, which many justice officials see as much more effective than what offenders given provincial sentences of less than two years receive.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Does the criminal-justice system need to work with the health-care system to ensure addicted offenders can access treatment outside of federal penitentiaries? Join the dicsussion in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 15, 2014 B1

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Updated on Friday, August 15, 2014 at 6:17 AM CDT: Adds question for discussion

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